Unexpected Materials

CHAPTER 2: Reduce, reuse, recycle

Limited resources often yield creative breakthroughs. Such is the case with these works: here, you’ll find art made with everything from reused canvases found in the studio to random detritus found on the street. In each example, the artist has capitalized on the power of transformation, whether it be through rearrangement (as in Louise Nevelson’s Dawn’s Presence—Two Columns), or radical juxtaposition (Rachel Harrison’s Buddha with Wall). Ultimately, they reveal/illuminate how recycling existing materials can prove to be even more fruitful than starting from scratch.

Retrato de Ramona [Portrait of Ramona]

Antonio Berni
Rosario, Argentina, 1905 - 1981, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Retrato de Ramona [Portrait of Ramona]
Collage of collagraph prints
63.4 cm x 31.2 cm (24 15/16 in. x 12 5/16 in.)
Gift of the Museum of Modern Art, 1982
1982.10

Ramona pupila

Antonio Berni
Rosario, Argentina, 1905 - 1981, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Ramona pupila
Collograph
149.5 cm x 64.2 cm (58 7/8 in. x 25 1/4 in.)
Archer M. Huntington Museum Fund, 1970
P1970.6.5

Antonio Berni’s experimental figuration was a key point of departure for the members of Nueva Figuración. Beginning in the late 1950s, Berni developed two narrative series based on the lives of imaginary characters Juanito Laguna, a boy from the slums, and Ramona Montiel, a prostitute. In these two works, Berni explores the use of three-dimensional printmaking techniques, lending surfaces a sculptural quality. Ramona seems to be assembled out of discarded objects the artist found in the street. Fragments of cheap tablecloths, broken mechanical parts, and forgotten ordinary items reinforce the marginality of Ramona’s existence. Berni pursued through these innovative collagraphs the central goal of his long and prolific career, an art of social engagement. See also: Antonio Berni, "Retrato de Ramona [Portrait of Ramona]," 1963, Collage of collagraph prints

Dawn's Presence - Two Columns

Louise Nevelson
Pereyaslav, Russia, 1899 - 1988, New York, New York

Dawn's Presence - Two Columns
Painted wood
294.6 cm x 170.2 cm x 78.7 cm (116 in. x 67 in. x 31 in.)
Purchase as a gift in memory of Laura Lee Scurlock Blanton by her children, 2005
2005.1

Manhattan frequently inspired Louise Nevelson. She saw the city as a monumental and ever-changing sculpture. “All I need is to feel New York coming through the wall,” she told a reporter the year this work was first exhibited. Composed of found wooden objects from lower Manhattan and seen in the round, "Dawn’s Presence—Two Columns" evokes a city-like perspective; just as buildings in a skyline appear to shift as the viewer walks around them. Nevelson built her career on the color black, which first coated her monochromatic sculptures and wooden installations in the 1950s. She exhibited her first white-painted sculptural installation in 1960. The artist broke up the larger pieces of the installation and reintroduced them later as discrete sculptural works such as this—a frequent practice of hers. The artist first exhibited "Dawn’s Presence—Two Columns" in New York in 1976 as part of a larger work comprised of several loosely arranged sculptural towers. Nevelson explained, “If you paint a thing black or you paint a thing white, it takes on a whole different dimension. I feel that white permits a little something to enter . . . a little more light, just as you see it in the universe.”

Rites of Spring - Olympic Offerings (Recto)

Marguerite Thompson Zorach
Santa Rosa, California, 1887 - 1968, Robinhood, Maine

Rites of Spring - Olympic Offerings (Recto)
Oil
74.9 cm x 62.4 cm (29 1/2 in. x 24 9/16 in.)
Michener Acquisitions Fund, 1985
1985.74a

Marguerite Thompson Zorach was among the first painters to introduce European modernism to American audiences, most memorably at the 1913 Armory Show in New York City. Inspired by the “absolute unconventionality and freedom” of European avant-garde practices the artist discovered while living in Paris, "Rites of Spring—Olympic Offerings" is a rare example of Zorach’s early experimentation with expressionistic applications of color. Here nude figures depicted in cool blues and caustic pinks proffer the season’s harvest to an unseen divine force, providing insight into the artist’s own perception of the “inner spirit of things.” Marguerite Thompson Zorach’s husband and fellow modernist, William Zorach, later used the back of this canvas for his own painting. According to his autobiography, the couple survived years of struggle in New York “by never spending a cent on anything that was not essential . . . we made our own canvases . . . used the stretchers over and over, rolling up the finished pictures. When desperate we painted on both sides of the canvas.” William, who enjoyed more commercial success than Marguerite, presumably used this canvas in a moment of desperation.

This art object can not be displayed

Image credit:
Antonio Berni
Retrato de Ramona [Portrait of Ramona], 1963 (detail)
Collage of collagraph prints
The Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin
Gift of the Museum of Modern Art, 1982

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