Category Archives: Plastic

Sarah Knobel – Icescapes


Sarah Knobel, Icescape, photo (2014), on view at Newspace Center for Photography until June 1, 2014

An eclectic mix of disposable manufactured objects (largely gathered from one dollar stores), encased in ice, leans forward. It’s in mid melt, as evidenced by some yellowy water and flecks of green (moss?). For me Sarah Knobel’s Icescapes recalled a number of quite disparate phenomena that taken together made for a potent brew. The haphazard, decayed look made me think of trash left behind by a storm, littering a riverbank and marking an otherwise pristine looking landscape. Or perhaps it’s a cross section pulled out of your garbage can and frozen for posterity, a record of waste and consumption. And, of course, it’s hard not to think of the big melt being caused by climate change. Knobel explains that she’s interested in the history of landscape photography and that her staged landscapes, far from permanent, reference “the fragility of the natural world and our impact upon it within a brief time period in relation to its existence without humankind.” The beauty of this series is indeed unsettling, in part, because it presents, at least implicitly, how we’re irrevocably and rapidly changing our world.


Zhang Jianjun – Scholar Rock (The Mirage Garden)

scholar rock

Zhang Jianjun – Scholar Rock (The Mirage Garden) (2008) Silicone rubber On view in Ink Art: Past as Present in Contemporary China, Metropolitan Museum December 11, 2013–April 6, 2014

Zhang Jianjun ‘s playful Scholar Rock (Mirage Garden) is a scholar’s rock made out of pinkish purple silicone rubber. It’s a witty updating of an old form, but most surprising was just how good it looked on display in the Astor Chinese Garden Court at the Metropolitan Museum. To my eye both the sculpture and its surrounding garden brought the other more fully to life. Classic Chinese gardens are, after all, deeply crafted and controlled meditations on nature. And perhaps it makes sense that petrochemical substances are the scholar’s rocks of the 21st century. Both Jianjun’s scholar’s rock and the courtyard garden punctures the naturalizing force of the other.

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