Silhouettes of figures set against rough-hewn bands of vibrant color that radiate out from the center, bold words—“YES,” “BIG TIME,” “BIZARRE WONDER”—spelled out in mixed-media on panel, and large-scale maps and sculptures created using discarded scraps and e-waste: these are some of the exuberant works in emerging artist Bart Vargas’s oeuvre. Vargas is situated in a lineage of artists who transform waste items into sculptural objects and forms (examples in the current zeitgeist include BRC Design’s furniture created from used motherboards, and El Anatsui’s sumptuous textiles made from bottle caps and can lids) and find aesthetic value in humble, scrappy materials, recalling the principles of the Arte Povera movement.
In Vargas’s paintings on panel, multicolored, centrifugal patterns of lines recur, applied to his surfaces in thick lashes of impasto, while familiar motifs such as the target, associated with Jasper Johns, reference 20th-century art history, in particular Pop Art. Accidental or deliberate drips of paint—it’s hard to tell which—are strewn over his base layer of paint, suggesting the artist’s hurried application of material. In more precisely rendered paintings, the skull of a moose head is visible against a ground of dark blue dots in the style of a sort of crude pointillism. In other, sculptural works Vargas employs used computer keys to create globes and skulls, finding artistic potential in trash. These discarded articles, he has explained, act as artifacts and evidence of the 21st century. Whether in two dimensions or three, Vargas’s works are explosively energetic, and his diverse, extensive output makes him one to watch.