The Found Object in Art
Research by Hannah Whitaker Fall 2019
The found object is a device used by many artisits in contemporary works. In 2019 it is common that an artisits may sprawl the streets with eyes peeled for that perfect piece of garbage to turn in to a new piece. As defined by The Tate museum a found object is "a natural or man-made object, or fragment of an object, that is found (or sometimes bought) by an artist and kept because of some intrinsic interest the artist sees in it."
While the use of found objects is relatively common in the modern art world it wasn't until after World War 1 that these objects started filling that role. "Suffering a deep malaise...artists sought to break out of traditional or historical modes of creating art, they searched for new ways to innovate by delving into every aspect of their culture and compelling new thought."(Cunha-Lewin) From this philosophy of thought came "readymade" art. Many artisits of this time were throwing out processes originally deemed as proper for something that spoke to them and their concept. The Readymade functioned in this way as "artists choose ordinary found objects from everyday life, and repositioned them as works of art so that their original significance disappeared in light of sparking new points of view."(Cunha-Lewin) This pushed artisits outside of their comfort zone of technique and paved the way for Conceptual art, which emphasized the importance of developing and presenting ideas over a finished "fine-art" piece.
Occasionally these objects might not be modified, making the act of presenting the object the art itself, hence the term Readymade. Otherwise, it is common for these objects, or portions of the object to serve as parts of a new whole. These kinds of works are often sculptural and known as "assemblages". "Assemblage is art that is made by assembling disparate elements – often everyday objects – scavenged by the artist...The use of assemblage as an approach to making art goes back to Pablo Picasso’s cubist constructions...An early example is his "Still Life" 1914 which is made from scraps of wood and a length of tablecloth fringing, glued together and painted."(Tate) Interested in the opportunities provided by juxtaposition assemblage became a very effective way of working for many early surrealist,or neo-dada, artisits. A few great examples of this are Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg 's works from the 1950's and 60's which you can see below.
“Take an object. Do something to it. Do something else to it.”