America produces about 250 million tons of trash per year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. That’s enough garbage to cover the state of Texas two and a half times. Now on show at the NY Studio Gallery in the Lower East Side, “TRASH” is an exhibit which features five artists who've created incredible works of art that highlight our wastefulness by repurposing or depicting refuse in creative ways. Jump ahead for an exclusive look into this eye-opening exhibit.
Curator Zeina Assaf wanted to create a show that found beauty in unexpected places while expressing the ideas of reuse and recycling. “Though different organizations are addressing these issues that are growing more important, I wanted to explore how artists interpreted this successfully in fine art,” says Assaf. “As people are talking about these topics I felt that the work would be accessible and resonate with viewers.”
Adler A.F. performed her piece “Trash Queen” on the opening night, and four other artists made work to be exhibited in the gallery. Kim Holleman and Al Wadzinski created sculptures from materials that were destined for a landfill.
Holleman, who is known for advancing an environmental message through her artwork, stitched together scraps to make sculptures of natural forms, like mountains, clouds, and bird nests – essentially creating an environment out of the very objects that threaten it.
For “Glacier,” she stitched together white packing material to form a glacier-like sculpture. The jagged edges of the material make the sculpture look like a sharp piece of ice. A manufacturing company originally used the flat pieces of foam. The company punched circles out of the material, and then sent the scraps to a shipping company. Holleman then had something shipped to her using the excess material as packaging material.
“This sculpture is technically the third use of this material,” says Holleman. “That makes me really happy to be able to reuse something so many times.”
Wadzinski also promotes environmental awareness, but instead of creating landscapes, he plucks found objects from salvage yards, garage sales or alleys and repurposes them into clever creatures. One of his most striking pieces is “Gargantua,” a nearly 6-foot tall gorilla head. A dog igloo forms the top of its head; tire halves give it a furrowed brow; and plastic chair seats serve as ears. Pieces of a red bumper and a bejeweled pillow encircle its bowling ball eyes, and its leather mouth roars at viewers. Jagged scrap metal, locks, and a pair of clogs form its teeth.
Painter Michael Kareken and photographer Stephen Mallon depict images of our recycling industry. Kareken paints and draws pictures of organized recyclables like glass bottles, scrap metal, and car parts, while Mallon shows what would be the next part of the process: materials shredded and smashed together. In his closely cropped images, shredded paper and wads of plastic wrap look like Magic Eye optical illusions while layers of rubber curl like soft ribbons.
“Each artist in TRASH has different levels of a environmental message and involvement in their work,” says Assaf. “Some take a more active and political role, as well as displaying the ingenuity and challenge of making something that is commonly seen as ugly into an aesthetically pleasing object.”
Photos: ©Jessica Dailey/Inhabitat