Spirit Catcher and Lumen-Less Lantern, An Art Intervention by Willie Cole

Willie Cole in his artist-in-residence studio at Express Newark, where he has been assembling chandeliers made from thousands of used plastic bottles. Rachel Vanni for The New York Times

Recycling has been a key theme in these pages since we started. Sometimes upcycle has been the term. Of course, reuse is also interesting.

All of these are worth our attention and support.

Our thanks to Laura van Straaten and the New York Times for bringing Willie Cole’s exhibition into view:

The artist invited the community in Newark to reimagine objects that would otherwise be destined for a landfill — to look at them in a fresh, imaginative way.

“Spirit Catcher” by Willie Cole is made of thousands of water bottles held together with metal wire and sculpted to resemble a chandelier. Rachel Vanni for The New York Times

NEWARK — The artist Willie Cole has created two colossal new sculptures and generated a provocative group exhibition stemming from an unusual open call asking artists to transform objects destined for landfill into something imaginative and new.

The resulting works are in two exhibitions on view at Express Newark, the center for socially engaged art and design affiliated with Rutgers University — Newark, where Cole, 68, is an artist in residence. They speak to his longtime practice of using ready-made objects as raw materials, and his preoccupation with environmental crises.

Cole’s own show, “Spirit Catcher and Lumen-less Lantern,” consists of two chandelier-like works, each assembled from more than 3,000 used plastic water bottles collected in Newark, where Cole grew up in the 1960s.

The forms, woven together with metal wire on-site during his residency, with help from Rutgers students and Newark neighbors, speak to Cole’s frustration with the results of the city’s yearslong water crisis: In 2019, the Environmental Protection Agency deemed the city’s water unsafe to drink, and Newark began replacing about 23,000 lines of aging lead pipes. Cole was impelled to address the crisis through his artworks, and specifically the next problem: what to do with the thousands of single-use plastic water bottles distributed by the city, which contribute to the cycle of toxicity and pollution.

While Cole was making the water-bottle sculptures with Rutgers students in his apprentice-style studio workshop, he generated a creative prompt asking them to choose and disassemble a found object “into as many pieces as possible” and then invent something new from those pieces. His fellow teacher, Colleen Gutwein O’Neal, adapted the prompt into an open call for artists in the region.

The result is a modest exhibition of sculptures by jury-selected artists presented alongside Rutgers students. Curated by O’Neal, it is on view through June 30 at Express Newark. (The director, Salamishah Tillet, is a New York Times critic at large.)…

Read the whole story here.

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