Today, ecology is at the center of many political, economic and social debates. No wonder that it got its way into contemporary creation too, through the more or less defined movement of recycled art.
Whether they are politically committed artists or simply walking in Duchamp’s footsteps and his ready-mades, their artworks are profoundly original and create unexpected figures from unlikely materials. They also make us ponder over the status of the artwork since its material is often perishable, which makes it beautiful and ephemeral at the same time.
#1. Vik Muniz
Brazilian artist Vik Muniz is by all means the main representative of the trend of recycled art. Spotted by an art dealer in New York in the mid-1980’s, he specializes in reproducing masterpieces or media icons with recycled materials, from trash, to shredded magazines, wires, puzzle pieces and even dust.
Vik Muniz creates large-scale pieces which composition requires to be projected on the ground from a couple of meters above. The piece assembled is taken into picture: the photography remains but the work of art itself disappears.
The movie entitled “Waste Land” is a documentary on the project that Vik Muniz conducted during three years in the biggest waste land of the world, the one of Jardim Gramacho in Rio de Janeiro’s suburb. For this project Vik Muniz worked with “pickers” who collected trash for the artist, posed for him, and assembled the piece according to the images projected on the floor inside the warehouse in which he was working. At the end of the project, the artist sold all the photographs during an auction event and donated the proceeds to the pickers of the wasteland who participated to the project.
Successful artist, designer and illustrator from Florida, Derek Gores has become a master in the art of collage, which he creates with shredded magazine paper, labels and other kinds of recycled materials. He starts by ordering his shreds by hues of colors and then creates entirely new images from them. He mostly represents portraits of women or daily life scenes inspired by the world of fashion and design. His works consist in a mosaic of bits and pieces, and are strikingly fluid and graceful.
Derek Gores is graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design, and he now lives and works in Melbourne. He collaborated with big corporations such as Adidas and Harley Davidson as well as famous people such as Madonna and Lenny Kravitz.
#3. Tim Noble and Sue Webster
Tim Noble and Sue Webster are a British artist couple who met in 1986 when studying fine arts in Nottingham. Since then, they create “shadow sculptures” together made with recycled objects and trash of all kinds that they then light up in order to cast shadows on the walls and the ground around.
At first sight, the piece looks like a pile-up without meaning but once the light is cast under the right angle, the shadow of the piece reveals an incredibly detailed and realistic image of the two artist’s profile, of animals, towns and figures in intimate positions.
#4. Guerra de la Paz
Guerra de la Paz is a collective of Cuban artists formed by Alain Guerra and Neraldo de la Paz. Based in Miami, they work from unconventional materials. Recycled clothing is their signature material, with which they create very colorful sculptures. They are often reinterpretations of classical works or carry a sociopolitical message. Guerra de la Paz’s art questions our consumption society and the way we abundantly use and get rid of objects that are still in good condition, such as clothe.
#5. Nik Gentry
Nick Gentry is a London based artist whose signature device is to recycle used floppy discs (the ancestor of USB drive) on which he paints astonishing futuristic portraits. His work is influenced by the development of consumerism, technology and cyber culture in our society, with a special interest for obsolete media. He also uses used film rolls, VHS disks, and x-rays.
He skillfully integrates these used materials into his portraits: for example, the metallic circles of the floppy disks he uses often form the eyes of the faces he paints.
#6. Wim Delvoye
Wim Delvoye is a Belgian artist famous for his transformation of used objects into spectacular artworks. For his series on tires, the artist carved delicate floral and organic patterns into different types and sizes of tires inspired by the Art Nouveau style. Tires keep their original circular shape but end up looking almost like cast metal or carved wood.
Wim Delvoye also uses metals, steel craps, or even dump truck and turn them into precious lace-like shells.
#7. Khalil Chishtee
Khalil Chishtee is a Pakistanese artist who creates impactful life-size sculptures out of recycled plastic bags of all kinds: grocery bags, trash bags etc. This material is for him a metaphor of “recycling our identity” and a way to face the obstacles in our life.
Khalil Chishtee’s work also questions the notion of preciousness: a work of art made of bronze, wood, or stone seems more precious because material has more history too. Though, we live at the age of plastic and plastic bags are probably the most ordinary and daily example of how surrounded of plastic we are in our life.
#8. Subodh Gupta
Subodh Gupta is an Indian artist who lives and works in New Delhi. He makes large-scale sculptures from daily objects following in the footsteps of Duchamp’s ready-mades. He chooses objects that are particularly significant in Indian culture and recycle them by integrating them in his installations: stainless containers, dishes or saucepans, which one can find in every Indian kitchen, regardless the social cast.
His art is therefore deeply rooted in Indian culture in which he was brought up, a culture that is now rapidly changing along with globalization. The objects he picks for his work already have a story, but the artist adds another layer of meaning when he integrates them into his pieces.
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