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Intersection: Vintage Vandals

The renaissance for assemblage art is official. The form, made famous by modern art bad boys Marcel Duchamp (“Fountain,” 1917) and Robert Rauschenberg (“Combines,” 1950), is what New York Times critic Roberta Smith calls “today’s most viable art form.” Last year, the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City dedicated its inaugural exhibition “Unmonumental: The Object in the 21st Century” to the art of the found object, and permanent collections at Manhattan’s Guggenheim Museum and the Saatchi Gallery in London have bolstered their repertoires with readymade, assemblage acquisitions. Almost always playful, and oftentimes political, these conceptual works are constructed from society’s discarded items and wasted materials (junk, basically). And in “Vintage Vandals II,” now showing at Sarasota’s Canvas Café, one man’s trash is indeed another man’s treasure.

Canvas Café gallery director Tim Jaeger invited artists to purchase and refurbish second-hand artwork and an assortment of orphaned, odd items from local Goodwill shops, which would then resell at the gallery with a portion of the proceeds going back to Goodwill Industries. “I thought, ‘What can artists do to create something unique and humorous but to also give back to the community, something that is affordable for people to buy?’” says Jaeger. Artists’ works range from highly conceptual mixed media pieces—Tobey Albright’s “A Model for the Looping End,” for example—to process-oriented two-dimensional paintings like Daniel Petrov’s “Green Face With Blue Hair.”  “My goal is to make this an annual show that, as it gets larger and as the popularity increases, turns into something that can actually make a substantial donation every year back to Goodwill Industries,” Jaeger adds. Here, SRQ talks with six of Jaeger’s “vandals” about their pièces de résitances.

Kim Ye
“Legacy” (2008) Found object, soil, latex

“The original piece I chose was a miniature rocking chair with a
mysterious hole in the seat. Quite frankly, I was intrigued by the bizarreness of this object. Was it a candleholder? No, too flammable. Plant stand? Maybe. Was it the work of an avant-garde crafter? Too shoddy. Perhaps it was a purely decorative element. In “Legacy,” the rocking chair symbolizes the grounded physicality of a bygone era, while the flexible latex growth represents the mutability of our increasingly mediated world. I want to suggest that we live in a recombinant culture, where the future is collaged together from a constantly expanding past.”

Daniel Petrov
“Green Face With Blue Hair” (2008) Oil and acrylic on canvas

“I wanted to preserve a certain portion of my fellow artist’s brush strokes but not necessarily the shapes they defined, such as the bridge and the trees. The solution came instantly: I simply stood the horizontal canvas on its side. The landscape was now no longer recognizable as such. I was now looking at an abstract painting, or rather the under-painting. It was surprising how often I could make use of the existing strokes because their directionality or values coincided with the demands of my subject. I restrained myself quite a bit so as not to ruin the collaborative aspect of the piece.”

Gale Fulton Ross
“Maybe?” (2001/2008) Acrylic on wood tray table

“A couple bid on the little table that I painted. It sold for lots of money. But the owners never came to my studio to pick up their art. Maybe they only wanted to make a very large donation to a deserving organization.”

Linda Lee
“Upwords: Missing Link” (2008) Plastic games pieces

“My work is an exploration of the space that exists in-between hope and cynicism. Asking the questions: How do we go through life with all of its immense brutality and not sink into immobilizing despair? How are we responsible for and accountable to each other? How do we communicate, and what do we really mean? How do we decide what is relevant and what is not? The piece utilizes the form of the game, Upwords, to illustrate that by using one letter from each of the following words—Jewis(h), B(u)ddhist, (M)uslim, Christi(a)n, Hi(n)du—the word ‘human’ emerges.”

Tobey Albright
“A Model for The Looping End” (2008) Found objects, green latex paint, cloth 
“The image or presence of a skull is, I imagine, about as universal as one can get. I found a massage brush that could be used as the missing link of the sculpture. I then used some fabric and tied the two parts together. The green paint is used not only as a binding agent for all the work, but as a way of giving the sculpture a dual presence. In post-production, the green is used as a green screen and the object disappears, becoming platform for shifting content or context.”

Joseph Arnegger
“Don't Look Up My Skirt” (2007) Mixed media

“Something about the iconoclastic smashing and reassembly of the putty sculpture (art history), combining it with a lei (whimsy) and the plastic parakeet (love and poetry) on a wood stage makes me smile. The piece was supposed to be a little funny. I think art takes itself too seriously.”

“Vintage Vandals” runs through August 31 at Canvas Café Gallery, 1912 Adams Ln., Sarasota, 941-957-0609

—By Gregory Locklear, Photography by Gene Pollux and art courtesy of Canvas Café Gallery

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