Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Art from Keys, Postcards, Kitten Statues, and eBay

Contemporary artist are ensuring that collecting is less a hobby than an aesthetic statement. Consider Jean Shin and Brian Ripel. Before the duo began creating the work displayed through January 2, 2011, in “Unlocking” at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art in Arizona, they had to gather a few things—specifically , about thirty thousand disused keys from local businesses and willing individuals. “One friend,” Shin says, “donated the key to her first and favorite car, a 1965 Ford Mustang that she drove to her senior prom.” For Shin and Ripel, keys link their owners to a specific location and time. Their cuts and grooves also look quite a bit like the mountainous Arizona skyline, a resemblance emphasized in a room-size projection of their jagged profiles. The symbolic and visual relationships add up to a community-oriented art experience that encourages viewers to reflect on places they’ve left behind, as well as on the local topography.

The connections among geography, technology, and memory are explored in a different manner by Zoe Leonard, whose installation “You see I am here after all” is on view through January 9 at Dia Beacon. The work is composed of several thousand postcards of Niagara Falls collected from online sites and flea markets. Dating to the first half of the 20th century, many exhibit early forms of photo manipulation, such as hand coloring, cropping, and overpainting. Individually each card is a vessel for a single memory. Taken as a whole, they represent a moment in the history of photography when technology began transforming natural wonders into tourist destinations.

Another avid collector, Patrick Jackson builds his “Tchotchke Stacks” out of kitschy statuettes bought at thrift stores. The Virgin Mary, sad clowns, goats, and kittens all inhabit the works, which can be seen at Nicole Klagsbun’s Art Basel Miami booth or through February 11 in the group show “Fetishes of Crisis” at CAPC Musee d’art contemporain de Bordeaux. Jackson is most interested in the weight-bearing capacity of his knickknacks , which he meticulously stacks on sheets of glass, making them function architecturally. Others prefer to scour eBay for their raw material, as Hanne Mugaas does in Secondary Market, 2010, an assortment of online-purchased goods repurposed as an installation, on view as part of the New Museum’s exhibition “Free” through January 23, 2011. For all these artist, the goal is to collect in quantity, but this never diminishes each object’s individuality.

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