Technique Tuesday: Found Object Sculpture

What is it?

“Found object” art describes artwork that utilizes objects not conventionally designated as art supplies, and manipulates them, usually while keeping them still recognizable as their original form. In its early days, some found object sculptures did not even involve any manipulation of the object, but simply the artist designating that item, just as it was, as “art.” Throughout the history of found object art, it’s taken on a variety of manifestations, so let’s take a look!

Examples in art history:

Found object art really wasn’t something seen in the art world until the 20th century, and one of its very first incarnations was quite a controversial one. Dada, the avant-garde artistic movement that began about 1915 and flourished into the 1920’s, in many ways sought to challenge the conventional standards and definitions of art. One aspect of their movement was the promotion of the idea that anything could be art, and anyone could be an artist. Artists like Marcel Duchamp presented what he termed “readymade” sculptures, consisting of an object like a urinal or a bicycle wheel, mounted on some kind of pedestal, and labeled as “art.” It might go without saying that many art critics had conflicting responses to such a statement! Even after the age of Dada passed, found object artists continued to produce work throughout the 20th century, and their ranks included iconic names like Louise Nevelson, known for her found object “assemblages,” and Ai Weiwei, China’s most famous contemporary artist. Found objects have and continue to appear in a broad range of sculptures, from the more conceptual to some quite representational pieces.

(top row) Marcel Duchamp, “Bicycle Wheel”, 1916; Man Ray, “Object to Be Destroyed”, 1923; Pablo Picasso, “Bull’s Head”, 1942 — (bottom row) Louise Nevelson, “Royal Tide, Dawn”, 1960-64; Ai Weiwei, “Grapes”, 2011; Kyle Bean, “Which Came First”, 2011

Examples at Principle Gallery:

Sculpture is not something that we typically display much of at our Alexandria location, as our setup here is better suited in general toward displaying paintings. However, we came across a found object sculptor whose absolutely unique and charming work really caught our attention. When we were putting together an invitational figure show for February, David Lipson’s sculptures seemed as though they would be a fun and refreshingly different take on “figures” and we happily included him in the show. Check out the three sculptures that are part of this upcoming exhibition!

As you may be able to guess from their labels (originally old car dealership decals), these three delightful figures are called “Baxter,” “Mallory,” and “Ridley. Carefully and beautifully crafted from a variety of found objects, many of them vintage finds, these figures each reveal a stunning level of creativity and craftsmanship– on top of which, they just make you smile!

The “Bodies of Work” exhibition, which opens THIS COMING Friday, February 16th, contains a fantastic variety of figurative art. From highly photorealistic styles to gestural Impressionism, found object sculptures to Surrealist and Magical Realism paintings, oil on linen to mixed media on paper, there’s something in this show to fascinate every taste! If you’re in the area, please be sure to join us from 6:30 to 9 PM on Friday for the opening reception! And, as the digital preview of the show is available NOW, feel free to contact us at info@principlegallery.com to receive a copy and get a sneak peek at this incredible collection of artworks!

 

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Technique Tuesday: Magical Realism

Happy Tuesday! You may remember that not long ago we spent some time looking at the well-known movement called Surrealism. We’re going to be looking at a lesser-known “relative” of that movement today: Magical Realism.

What is it?

Magical Realism is a term that has been long-debated and is typically more frequently applied to literary rather than visual arts. Although glimpes of Magical Realism were seen in the art world prior to the invention of the term, it was first used by art critic Franz Roh in the late 1920’s to describe the changes that he was observing in art in the wake of Expressionism. The dawn of the 20th century, the upheaval of wars, the advancement of technology, and the changing world converged to produce several art movements that drifted further and further from strict Realism and into the realms of abstraction– for example, Expressionism, Dada, Cubism, Fauvism, Futurism, and more. The changes noted by Franz Roh, however, indicated that some artists were “reverting” to Realism again, though with an eerie, mysterious twist. While Surrealism focused on heavily psychological subjects (dreams, the subconscious, etc.), Magical Realism showed a mostly-recognizable reality, but in a way that added a sense of mystery, unease, or magic to that reality. Unlike Surrealism’s jarring juxtapositions and unsettling, even shocking, imaginary concepts, Magical Realism presented a mostly-believable world, with just a hint of mystery. Often, Magical Realism paintings included a sense of stillness, gravity, and heightened sharpness or detail, while also incorporating fantastical elements. Let’s take a look at some examples.

Examples from art history:

First, let me clarify that as many artists crossed back and forth between genres, Magical Realism has become a bit ambiguous in the eyes of some art historians. Many of the artworks of the early 20th century contained elements that could include them in multiple art movements. Here are several examples of artworks that many art historians classify as Magical Realism. Do you agree?

(top row) George Tooker, “Government Bureau” ; Salvador Dali, “Portrait of Gala”; Pyke Koch, “Resting Somnambulist IV” (bottom row) Diego Rivera, “Sunflowers”; Andrew Wyeth, “Spring”

Examples at Principle Gallery:

We’ve got a fantastic figurative exhibition coming up this February entitled “Bodies of Work,” and we’re thrilled about the variety of work in the show, including the many pieces with elements of Magical Realism! Take a look at some of these sneak peeks from the exhibition, and see if you think you’d qualify them as Magical Realism, Surrealism, or something else altogether! Be sure to shoot us an email at info@principlegallery.com to request a digital preview of the show as soon as it’s available, if you’d like to be among the first to see this beautiful collection of artworks!

Stephen Early, “And Into the Forest I Go”

Nadezda, “Revanche”

Mark R. Pugh, “A Secret and a Locked Door”

Mark R. Pugh, “Autoportraitism”

Mark R. Pugh, “Novaturient”

Anna Wypych, “Too Sweet to Be Serious”