Since 1990, over 100 professional artists and twenty artist students have participated in Recology’s Artist in Residence Program at its Solid Waste Transfer and Recycling Center in San Francisco. A unique program with few similar residences in America, Recology intensive, part-time program provides access and engagement for artists with discarded materials at the waste and recycling center, a stipend and a large studio space, and hosts an short term exhibition open to the public featuring artwork made during the residency. Artists Stephanie Syjuco, Brittany Watkins, and Yulia Pinkusevich each presented their artwork made while in residence in three separate solo exhibitions at Recology for four days throughout the weekend of January 24-28.
Stephanie Syjuco fashions cultural archetypes from found materials at Recology to continue her exploration into a wide array of ideas about production, consumerism, value, and the social sources and uses of art objects. Continuing her investigation into appropriation, semiotics and re-presentation, Syjuco gives insightful interpretations of modernist furniture in her exhibition, Modern Ruins (Popular Cannibals) featuring major furniture from Eames chairs to Poulsen Henningsen lamps. These works function in several ways. They not only reflect upon the implications of today’s mass, at times cheap reproductions of the historic unique originals, but also prompt audiences to reflect upon originality, intent, and meaning. Importantly, Syjuco affirms her reproductions are not meant to fool or be functional. In fact, they were purposely designed not to be so, and is obvious to the fact. The minimalist modern idealism and the reality of the world are directly met and confronted by the scavenged materials and rudimentary constructions, what she describes a “shanty-like” aesthetic. The lack of quality materials and cursory labor, like the remnants of a declining culture, suggest collapse. These ideals are exacerbated by the somewhat hidden installation of rudimentary objects representing Molotov cocktails, artificial flowers, everyday tools and appliances, and kitsch items — objects that perhaps one wouldn’t want to be indicative of their culture — covered with a bleak, matte grey color. Because this may only be revealed after viewing the front, modernist installation, Syjuco may prompt viewers to think about how one may reconcile the two.
During her Recology artist residency, Brittany Watkins collected objects such as window blinds and other household objects, different types of wire, plastic tubes, plastics, and wood pieces that she then shredded, knotted, wove and bent to create powerful, and somewhat visceral abstract sculptural artworks. By dramatically altering these forms through a repetitive and time-intensive working process, Watkins builds an intimate and deep understanding of, and relationship with the material nature of these objects. “While competing for space amongst the world that is constantly tearing us down,” she says in her artist statement, “I find a way to piece my soul back together through loss, decomposition, and humor.” Suggestive of natural or biological forms, her artworks may also prompt viewers to assign more personal, life-like qualities to these objects, as well.
Watkins’ aesthetic mixture of disparate materials, items perhaps never crossing paths in their intended uses, also prompts a discussion around re-mixture of utility and time as well. The art pieces that compose the creative environment formed by Watkins inside Recology’s spaces illustrate the versatility and mutability of the materials. Says Watkins in her artist statement, “I strive to break our taboos and fears in order to free the mind from social constructs and allow an abject sigh for the soul.” For her exhibition, The Time Objects Tell, Watkins displays a particularly intriguing piece, a large-scale interactive sculpture designed to be entered. Participants are ensconced in its textures, materials, and artistic arrangement, an experience in many ways similar to Watkins’ artistic process of selecting and making artworks on view.
The Glory of a Tool Is Seldom Judged by Its Handle, Recology’s third artist in residence Yulia Pinkusevich further examines the cognitive consequences of architecture, and how it frames perception of one’s surroundings and engagement with the world. Says Pinkusevich, “Conceptually, my work is concerned with this fragmented vision of architectural layering and perceptions of the built environment. Formally, the work is engaged with the direct experience of the viewer through perspectival illusion and spatial perception that play with the subconscious and cognitive understanding of space.” While at Recology, Pinusevich constructed “projection boxes” containing objects that cast shadow images on studio walls resembling cityscapes. Created using common objects like capacitors and heat sinks, the shadows cast a looming futuristic, uncanny architecture; therefore at once familiar and foreign. Pinusevich explains further that “[b]y breaking logical perspectives I create illusions of impossible spaces, non-places or Utopias that shift the viewpoint to the panoptic.”
Yulia Pinkusevich’s large-scale painting on view, made directly on the studio walls intersected with a supporting beam, engage with the building’s architecture and create an interesting tension with perceived and real spatial properties. It was particularly interesting to learn that during her residency Pinkusevich says she discovered there was a specific order to disassembling electronics, and her precise movements that deconstructed the items were a direct reversal of the intensive process others followed to put the components together. These kind of revelations and deconstructions begin to veer into commentary upon broader issues of urbanization and labor. Pinkusevich also creates abstract pieces from old film that feel like these examinations of disassembly, unrolling the film from its intended use, and reassembly of fashioning the artwork. Alongside these works, she recreates imagery on the reels upon long strips of scavenged wood that are simple studies of movement and time, reminiscent of Muybridge’s seminal photography series.
Find out more about this cycle’s artists, artists who will be participating in the program, and more about Recology’s artist in residence program on their website.