Uncertainty and change are possibly the only constants in our environment. Any action committed by an organism is met with an almost immediate reaction; some predictable, some not. What matters most is how we respond and adapt.
Re-Purpose, the current exhibition at Kaneko is a creative response to changes that have occurred in the world. The offerings in this multimedia group show are an example of creativity that not only addresses environment from a practical standpoint but also politically and socially.
The exhibit also provides viewers with a chance to witness creativity in terms of process and materials; and in both cases, neither are typical from the start. Take for example the sculptural work of Chakaia Booker. In terms of scale and scope, the work is impressive to behold.
Though there are two-dimensional prints in her portion of the exhibition, which felt a bit superfluous, the sculptures she has created are well-placed documents describing the causes and effects of human interaction with the world. The work has, in some cases, a grisly, almost horrific appearance, but it remains harmonious in the balance and use of repurposed material.
Comprised of discarded tires, cut and twisted and then given form in a variety of ways, they become a direct example of creatively using materials left to rot. They are given new life as art pieces, providing context and questioning why society does not more often consider an alternative use for things we would otherwise toss in the garbage.
Her piece, “The Color of Hope,” 2010, in its literal use of industrial waste calls the viewer to consider how discarded tires and metal can evoke the appearance of very elaborate calligraphy densely layered.
A fixture in Omaha’s art scene, Bart Vargas is an avid recycler. His piece, “The Bitter Pill,” 2011, takes shape as an enlarged medicinal pill, its structure built from plastic pop bottles, cardboard construction tube and glue. The re-use of the material so common in landfills becomes a rarefied in-your-face picture of possible outcomes in three-dimensional form.
Vargas uses common and very commonly discarded materials in his other works, ranging from the keys of computer keyboards to old socks, and finds ways to make those objects interesting as art.
Many other examples of repurposed materials can be found in this exhibition in a wide variety of styles. Other artists in the show include Ted Larsen, Ken Little, Phil Hansen, Sean Suiter, Jamie Burmeister and Ellen Reid, who conceptualized a playground-shaped sound sculpture.
All of these artists offer not only a different spin on the idea of reusing materials left from another purpose or simply thrown away by others, but a new and exciting take on creativity itself.
Often gallery visitors at any given venue are stuck in the position of looking at old modes of creative expression, painting being the most notable example. In the case of each of these artists, the materials used represent a jumping-off point for them to let the materials represent themselves to the viewer.
Much like a very skilled chef getting out of the way of the ingredients, letting them shine, these artists arrange their material to let the material speak. The obvious meanings one could gather from this exhibition are varied, but clearly the artists are leaving that to the audience.
The artists here are embracing, creating and interpreting elemental differences in changes in the environment. While some adapt to change well, others resist or deny it is even possible. The entire exhibition might just leave one feeling inspired . . . or not.
For the artists in Re-Purpose, change is not only a constant, it’s their métier.
Re-Purpose runs through August 24, 2019, at Kaneko located at 1111 Jones Street. Hours for the exhibition are Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. For more information call 402-341-3800 or visit www.thekaneko.org.