Porous Gallery embraces the art of trash in ‘The Discarded’ exhibition

By Kimberly Kapela, Copy Editor

Located at 623 S. Wabash Ave. in room 411, the Porous Gallery hosts the latest exhibition, “The Discarded.” Bianca Kreusel

Abandoned shopping carts, trash bins and used stuffed animals grace the Porous Gallery in the newest installment of “The Discarded” exhibition.

Located at 623 S. Wabash Ave. in room 411, “The Discarded” is an experimental curatorial project by co-directors and curators Ryan Lucas and Grace Papineau-Couture. The exhibit highlights abandoned materials found on the street in hopes of it serving a new purpose for creators.

Lucas and Papineau-Couture, a second-year and a first-year graduate student in the fine arts program, respectively, invite their visitors to think conceptually about trash, in hopes of shedding light on materials that no longer serve the general public but can be repurposed as something new.

For the second exhibition held at the Porous, Papineau-Couture wanted to also showcase work from artists that had been left unfinished or leftover materials they used to create the piece and give it new life by displaying the unfinished artwork as something fresh and different.

“Right now, it’s very found-object focused,” Papineau-Couture said. “So anything that we see on the street, and we are drawn to visually or feel like we could display as an object, rather than just a piece of trash. That’s our major deciding factor: can we display this as something that can be read as an object instead of street garbage.”

Lucas said in order to make new art, the artist has to go through scrapped concepts and abandoned pieces before it is put on display.

“Conceptually, trash in general is something that we take advantage of, and some of the things that you find on the ground are the things that you take advantage of — everyday objects,” Lucas said.

One person’s trash can be another person’s treasure – or art. Bianca Kreusel

The directors gave meaning to the already used objects found on the street to highlight the important role they serve in the artistic process.

“[It is] an exploration into ingenuity and how you use the environment around you without necessarily going out and buying something new,” Papineau-Couture said. “How you can re-conceptualize things that are in your vicinity that you thought maybe were unusable or are unusable?”

Lucas and Papineau-Couture said they hope visitors can reevaluate their relationship with used materials and everyday items that can be used to create artwork, because the possibilities are limitless.

Debra Parr, associate professor in the Art and Art History Department, said she was “pleasantly surprised” at the items featured in “The Discarded” and how they contribute to the overall artistic vision and are tangential to art making.

Without its use of frames and pedestal display cases, “The Discarded” is a disruption of how typical artwork is presented.

“It was, in a way, a kind of a funny reminder about what we expect in a gallery setting,” Parr said. “When we’re a bit confused as to where one piece started and another ended, that was a really nice and thought-provoking way of disrupting the experience of looking at singular works of art that are clearly defined by frames and points.”

Grace Papineau-Couture (left) and Ryan Lucas (right) are the gallery curators and organizers for “The Discarded.” The gallery runs until Dec. 15. Bianca Kreusel

“The Discarded” has a sustainable aspect to its resourcing of used goods for artists to utilize in their later projects.

“I think that artists, designers, filmmakers [and] musicians should always be very mindful about the kind of garbage that they produce in the process of making a work of art,” Parr said. “I wonder if artists could be more mindful about what happens to the work after they’ve made it; if it was for an assignment, for example, because I think one has limited storage capacity to keep everything efficient — like how could it be recycled or reused for another project?”

Parr took her art history class to visit the gallery and said it challenged the students’ expectations of what the exhibition might be about.

“I thought it was interesting to hear from the visual arts management students, who could see all of the standards and rules that they’ve been trying to master in their skill set for their program being discarded and not absorbed,” Parr said. “I think they found it to be funny and also kind of eye-opening.”

“The Discarded” exhibition, which opened on Nov. 10, runs at Porous Gallery until Dec. 15 and is open on Thursdays from 1 to 3 p.m. For more information and the latest projects from Porous, visitors can listen to the Porous Gallery podcast.