NEW YORK—Brooklyn-based artist Shari Mendelson’s medium of choice is high-density polyethylene, the plastic currently used for most beverage containers—trash. She transforms the discarded modern vessel into dreamy, translucent vessels that reference history. Her latest installation Artifacts at Todd Merrill Studio (December 14 – January 13, 2017) features her recent material explorations, which Hyperallergic calls “a stunning exhibition of about two dozen elegant, gently humorous, and very smart riffs on the vessel tradition.”
Whimsical, diaphanous, and rough-hewn, Mendelson cuts the plastic bottles assembling the pieces with hot glue and acrylic resin into her reimagined forms.
Mendelson crafts the surfaces with great care but without fuss, often applying washes of acrylic mediums and colors that bring out their beautiful irregularities.
The gallery explains Mednelson’s works brings to question how future generations will interpret and define our society. Mendelson’s works reference the legacy of past civilizations while bringing up modern issues of sustainability. Plastic bottles, for example, outlive their utilitarian purpose taking hundreds of years to biodegrade.
“I think about the great civilizations that have risen and fallen and what the remaining objects of our time will say about us to future civilizations. It helps bring attention to the fact that plastic bottles—as these ancient vessels once were—are the symbols of our time.”
Mendelson’s works also explore the relationship between rare, ancient works—high value museum quality works—and our contemporary throwaway plastic culture. To do so, Mendelson derived her reimagined plastic amphoras and urns from ancient artifacts such as Greek, Roman and Islamic glass and ceramic vessels.
Some of her pieces are a close facsimile of the original; others evolve out of the working process and take on a form of their own. Her pieces are coated with glaze-like layers of resins, polymers and paint that alter the color of the plastic, vary the levels of transparency and opacity, and emphasize or obscure the original material.
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