Many of Agora Gallery’s talented artists use found objects in their work – things that they come across, are struck by, keep and set by. They might be manmade, intended for a particular purpose or job, or they might be part of the natural world. These objects may wait some time – in a shoebox, on a shelf – until the artist is ready to use them, or until the right combination of objects come together to provide the necessary inspiration. Then they appear as part of a work of art; in collages, like those of Hidekazu Ishikawa, or to complement the main work in the way that Apolo Anton Arauz uses objects found on the sites he photographs to bring an extra level of meaning to the photographs themselves. Samantha Churchill, who presented some of her most recent work in Agora Gallery’s latest exhibition, started recycling wire to make sculptures back in college and has developed this idea to become a firm advocate for using found objects in art. Found objects can be a source of inspiration in their own right, or play a role in the development of a piece through their connection to other ideas.
Objects are often intriguing in their own right, as well as in terms of what they add to the overall work. But the use of found objects in art has a history of its own, too. The Dadaists are credited with beginning the trend in the 1910s, incorporating both found objects and images into their works. Perhaps the most notable and radical was Marcel Duchamp, whose display in 1917 of a ceramic urinal which he entitled ‘Fountain’ scandalized the art world of the time and was greeted with cries that this was not, and could not be, art. Despite this, though, the innovation was greeted with interest and delight among artists of the time and quickly developed with works of assemblage – which involves putting various found objects together to create something new – and pieces which combined the old and the new methods and incorporated found objects into works to illustrate or draw attention to one aspect of the painting or sculpture. The concept became an important one to many of the evolving schools, including the Dadaists and the Surrealists and thus was established as a legitimate tool of the artistic workbox.
Those who later worked with the concept of found objects, although in a real sense developing this theme and idea, often differed from the original artists in the important sense that whilst Duchamp, for example, used the object itself, they tended to to use them in a ‘processed’ sense – for instance Warhol, who used a Brillo soap box as his model but recreated it on a huge scale, or Lichtenstein and his famous comic book paintings.