Mimicking Ruined Materials


Works in this category mimic ruins in appearance or bear surface qualities that imitate decayed matter (as opposed to artworks that depict ruins). Ruins have long been a source of fascination in Western art, where they are often used to convey historical authenticity or to preserve an image of the past. Artificial ruins were among the more popular follies (ornamental buildings or architectural elements) of lavish 16th- and 17th-century European estates; a ruin in the vein of antiquity signified taste, as in Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s bridge ruin (ca. 1630) at the Palazzo Barberini, in Rome. Examples from contemporary art include Anselm Kiefer, who uses charred and deconstructed materials to evoke the dark, mythic qualities of German culture in large-format history paintings. Artist Daniel Arsham, inspired by his childhood memories of the destruction of Hurricane Andrew in 1991, casts obsolete electronics out of geological materials, while Sterling Ruby’s rough-hewn monumental sculptures made of ceramics and bronze resemble exhumed objects.