Tuesday, November 13, 2007

One man’s trash.

Two shows at the Salt Lake Art Center are garbage. SF Recycled is in the main gallery and features works by eight artists who participated in the only artist residency program situated in a US public garbage disposal site. SF Recycling and Disposal is a 44-acre plot on the south side of San Francisco that is known to area artists as “the dump.” Each of the artists in the show was awarded a half-year residency sometime between 2001 and now. And while all the works may not have been completed during the residencies, they do reflect a strong use of the discarded.

Much of the work is ho hum. Nomi Talisman’s photography felt commercial, and I don’t mean commercial as in art that sells. I mean commercial as in quotidian graphic design. I sat through all her videos waiting for that moment when the installation would move me. It never did. In a world of Macintosh computers and HD video cameras in every home, the videos felt amateurish—particularly considering the lackluster content.

Daphne Ruff’s collages are also pedestrian. The handbags and shoes made from the iconic remains of old games and packaging would have been more at home in a hipster gift shop.

But other works were interesting. I liked Andrew Junge’s work, particularly 82 Days at the Dump. This drawing book filled with images and remembrances from a stint at the dump even included a deconstructed work glove. Of all the works in the show, this most effectively asked questions about our consumption and waste.

Other artists that make a trip to SF Recycled worth it? The collages of Mark Faigenbaum, the reconstructed signs of Mike Farruggia, and a work by Dee Hibbert-Jones and Talisman. The latter work (Letters to an Unknown Friend) tried hard to be about the content, but the beauty of the old typewriter juxtaposed with an impossibly thin screen made a bolder statement than the actual letters.

Of course the use of trash in art isn’t new. As with most modern/contemporary art, Marcel Duchamp got there first. But others too have made their name in this arena. The Art Center Projects Gallery hosts Masters of West Coast Assemblage and Collage. The show features works by five artists who are acknowledged masters of mixed media—all of whom used trash to create their works.

A few general comments about the Art Center. 1.) For my money, no other gallery or museum in Salt Lake does a better job of presenting stuff. The galleries always look great. The lighting is just about perfect. And I love the way the gallery posts information about each work on the floor. (Although they could use a good proofreader. Typos, grammar problems, and some terrible kerning could all be fixed with a good proofing); 2.) It’s free; 3.) They have great art talks with interesting guests and movies. So I can’t figure out why more people don’t go. There is never anyone there. So go. It’s so lonely. I’d love the company.

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