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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Found Object Art

Still-life with Chair Caning, 1912, Pablo Picasso
Is it art, or is it not? Pablo Picasso may have been the first, (or at least one of the first) to take an ordinary object and turn it into art. His Still-life with Chair Caning (above), from 1912, is said to have started the ball rolling along this line. In it he took wallpaper with a chair caning image and attached it to his canvas, working the pre-printed (found object) into his painted composition. It was innovative. Picasso called it "collage" (loosely translated French for "to paste"). I doubt very much if anyone (now or then) would not consider his oval abstract image to be art.

The Fountain (the date is that of this reproduction), Marcel Duchamp
Then, in New York. less than a year later and shortly before the famous 1913 Armory Show, Marcel Duchamp not only kept the ball rolling, but practically booted it off the field with his famous The Fountain (above), a urinal, laid on it's back, and signed, "R. Mutt." (This type of conceptual art is sometimes referred to as "readymade.") Like Picasso's wallpaper, it was a "found" object, though purchased by Duchamp specifically to become an art object. The show's jurying committee (of which Duchamp was a member), despite his spirited defense, consigned his "Fountain" to the back alley. The consensus was, he'd gone too far. Not only was it considered in poor taste (perhaps the primary objection) but it was manifestly not art in that Duchamp had not made the object but merely declared it to be art.

"If I say it's art, it IS art."
Picasso's "Bull" (uppermost image) is a bicycle seat
with handlebars welded to it.
Any argument along this line today is purely academic. Artists "make" art. If an artist "makes" a work of art by simply making an artistic statement pronouncing it to be art, then that alone makes it an art object though most academics would prefer the artist sign the work, title it intelligently, and make some changes to the object's appearance in doing so). Duchamp did all three. And before you discount any such art, be aware that a long line of well-respected famous artist such as Salvador Dalí, Jim Dine, Marcel Duchamp, Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst, Jasper Johns, Joseph Kosuth, Louise Nevelson, Pablo Picasso, Robert Rauschenberg, Man Ray, and Kurt Schwitters have created thousands of works of art using Picasso's "assemblage" formula (above). And when found "objects" (usually printed items) are used on a flat surface, with or without paint, the technique is referred to by Picasso's term, "collage" although British artist Jane Perkins blurs the line between the two considerably (below).

British artist, Jane Perkins, has a lot of patience. Since 2008,
she has been recreating classic artworks and portraits of iconic
figures using thousands of tiny found objects, such as buttons,
beads, LEGO pieces, and shells.
Sky light, Light Years Away,
Lynn Aldrichto 
Over the past few years I've written about sculpture made from paper, fire, steel, ice, snow, food, glass, ice, and water just to name a few. Some involved found objects, some not so much. In any case, found object art in the years since Picasso and his ilk has come a long way. Contemporary artist have taken an "adopt and adapt" path in following the footsteps of the art form's 20th-century pioneers.

Tim Holtz recycling time.

As with virtually all forms of art, the results range from the stunningly beautiful sponge painting, Sky light, Light Years Away (left), by Lynn Aldrichto, to the delicately feminine clock creation of Tim Holtz (below). Then there's the "macho" ugly Holy Cow by Sean O'Meallie (below).

Holy Cow, Sean O'Meallie

A recycled collage using scraps of paper.


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