Manufactured Organic: Exploring the Environmental Implications of ArtMarch 22, 2011
The ambitious exhibition currently showing at the Root Division gallery features work that incorporates forms and materials found in nature, as well as those that may otherwise be discarded as useless. The show addresses two related, but divergent areas of discussion: methods of sustainable production and the environmental effects of art practice. However, these two areas of exploration in Manufactured Organic do not converge well in the space of the exhibition: there is little conversation among pieces.
A number of works in the show demonstrate how our record of consumption sustains itself—from Elyse Hocstadt’s fossilization of modern day items in gelatin to Victoria DeBlassie’s sculptural work created from discarded orange peels. Hocstadt’s works involve a substance normally derived from animal skin and bones, which suspends known common objects and renders them archaic; her work is yet another example both of how natural materials possess the capacity to go beyond their use, as well as a means of conveying the cyclical nature of materiality and immateriality. DeBlassie uses compostable items to create what is traditionally thought of as timeless. Both artists’ works ask viewers to contemplate the degenerative nature of the materials involved and provide evidence of how self-sustenance simultaneously produces a record of consumption.
Yet, these sculptures are tucked away from the gallery’s main
floor, lessening the opportunity for dialogue between them and other works, such as Patterson Clark’s creations. These look machine made, but are almost entirely created from weeds and other raw materials. His work responds to notions of sustainability, addressing how an artist can affect change by using organic materials.
Putting these two strains of inquiry into contact with one another in the exhibition might have produced an interesting dialogue, but the floor plan of Manufactured Organic is simply not conducive to seeing the tensions or affinities between the disparate works. The sheer number of artists involved also makes for a crowded exhibition space; instead, it may have been beneficial to feature fewer artists in order to achieve the most optimal visual representation.
Manufactured Organic: Exploring the Environmental Implications of Art is on view at Root Division, in San Francisco, through March 26.
Dorothy Santos is a freelance writer based in San Francisco. She holds a BA in both philosophy and psychology from the University of San Francisco.