WinterActive – “Found” at the Aldrich Museum, Ridgefield, Connecticut


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Barrao's Mashups are a weighty tribute to the power of scavenging and upcycling

Sometimes the best way to beat the winter chill is to simply ignore it. Sure, when its 20 degrees outside the temptation to stay buried under your covers is great. But seriously, winter is much more fun when you don’t let it defeat you. Of course, it helps when there are stellar reasons to get out and about and thankfully, The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, Connecticut has provided an excellent one.

Aldrich Opening

At the opening of "Found," at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, guests gather around Xu Bing's "Tobacco Project."

The Aldrich opened “Found: Six Exhibitions by Artists Working with Appropriated Ideas and Salvaged Materials” Sunday afternoon (January 29th) to the delight of a packed house. Bringing together artists from around the world, Found presents a vast and varied look at the idea of scavenging. “This approach to selecting cultural artifacts and inserting them into new concepts parallels the role that sampling plays today in almost every creative discipline, from music to architecture,” reads the Aldrich’s apt description of the exhibits.


In Brazilian artist Barrão’s work, the word “sampling” couldn’t be more fitting. Scouring second-hand stores, flea markets, and dumpsters, Barrão collects cast off decorative ceramic figurines and then melds them together to create what the Aldrich has called “Mashups.” Curator Monica Ramirez Montagut writes “Modern consumerism fosters a constant desire to acquire and amass a surplus of objects and consumer goods, like popular ceramics. Barrão shares the street vendor’s fascination with forsaken objects that were once perceived as valuable and now find themselves homeless, objects that used to be considered beautiful and are now kitsch, and that were previously a sign of their times and are now passé. His sculptures have the power of enchantment, rewarding viewers who take the time to identify and acknowledge their perception of the works.”

Roy McMakin, The first piece of furniture I bought (which was painted red when I found it)

"The first piece of furniture I bought (which was painted red when I found it)." 2011 by Roy McMakin

While Barrão’s sculptures are bright, rambunctious, and gravity-defying, furniture maker Roy McMakin’s work strikes a more somber, settled tone. Middle, the name of this collection of work, was created from McMakin’s childhood furniture collection that he reacquired after the death of his parents in 2005 and 2009 respectively. Each of the nine pieces have been altered—trisected actually—in ways that render some completely disabled while adding another layer of functionality to others. McMakin is a master of making the mundane extraordinary. Middle showcases the artist’s skills as a master manipulator of static objects, allowing the viewer to interpret what were once simple furniture pieces in any number of unique ways.

Xu Bing, Tiger Rug

Xu Bing's "1st Class" being installed. Glue and tobacco are a potent mix.

Though both Barrão’s and McMakin’s work make powerful statements in their own rights neither are quite as fragrant as Xu Bing’s intensive and all encompassing Tobacco Project. Xu Bing has contributed nearly 40 pieces to the exhibit but the show stealer is unquestionably 1st Class, a low-lying sculpture consisting of nearly half-a-million cigarettes resembling a tiger-skin carpet. The Tobacco Project is part of Xu Bing’s exploration of the production and culture of tobacco that originated during his visits to Duke University in North Carolina. The University’s—and the state’s—deep-rooted ties to the tobacco industry sparked the artist’s interest and it has continued for over a decade.

Also on exhibit are Jim Dingilian’s Subtractive Images, Regina Silveira‘s In Absentia, and Kathryn Spence’s eye-popping melange of cast off goods reworked into natural scenes, Dirty and Clean. Though the exhibit runs until June 10th, Found presents the perfect opportunity to forget the cold and get lost in a world where nothing is gone and nothing is forgotten.

Found: Six Exhibitions by Artists Working with Appropriated Ideas and Salvaged Materials runs through June 10th, 2012 at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum.

  • Very cool show. I can’t believe I’m actually jealous of people who live in CT!!!