Artists Upend Art-Making Traditions

Artsy Editorial
Jan 12, 2014 3:42PM

In addition to inciting shock and awe, a host of famous artworks from the past few decades—like Janine Antoni’s Lick and Lather, Chris Ofili’s elephant dung madonna, El Anatsui’s bottle-cap tapestries, and Tara Donovan’s styrofoam cup clouds—have been instrumental in the growing trend of artists using non-traditional materials and methods to create art. Artists trade out paint for bodily fluids, clay for chocolate, and even use their tongues instead of paintbrushes. With such forebears and contemporaries, several artists at 333 Montezuma Arts continue this contemporary art tradition, skillfully employing unusual means from Mylar to animal bones and a flatbed scanner, to sheet rock and tobacco. 

Mylar is a material of choice for Sarah Vanderlip, particularly in her “drawings”—recreations of architectural drawings done by her father. Most prominently popularized in art by Andy Warhol when he debuted his Silver Clouds installation at Leo Castelli Gallery in 1966, Mylar is first and foremost a polyester insulator that is commonly used in x-ray film and to trap heat in emergency blankets. Although she calls them drawings, the use of Mylar transforms Vanderlip’s works into hybrid, amusingly reflective entities that exist somewhere between drawing, sculpture, architecture, and collage. 

For her “Elegy” series, Deborah Samuel used unconventional materials like animal bones, and swapped out a camera for a flatbed scanner. She collected over 100 skeleton specimens—from cobras, owls, armadillos, dolphins, turtles, and frogs—then captured their images by placing the bones directly on top of the scanner’s glass and covering them with a black cloth. The resulting image, not exactly a photograph, has qualities to make it resemble an x-ray or a photogram.

For Drew Dominick, nontraditional materials are conceptual necessities to his works—witty appropriations of art historical icons like Albrecht Durer’s Hare watercolor, and Frederic Remington’s sculptures of the American West. In The Bronco Buster (After Frederic Remington), he replaces Remington’s bronze with silicone rubber, and renders a cowboy toppled off of his horse. Combining materials including sheetrock, tobacco, leather, and animal pelts he cleverly and effectively creates engaging sculptures that challenge artistic traditions.

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Artsy Editorial