Pablo Picasso’s Still Life with Chair Caning—an oval-shaped painting trimmed with a piece of rope as a frame—is often acknowledged as one of the first assemblage pieces as it incorporated a found object as part of the composition. Picasso’s work is also an early modern illustration of the idea that artists sometimes willingly utilize and experiment with materials that were produced for purposes other than art-making.
The advent of industrialization in modern Western societies encouraged the production of more goods and, ultimately, more excess and waste. This reality—as well as the idea that artists were able to focus more on the investigations of personal interests rather than commissions—led to endless new possibilities for using unexpected materials in their creative endeavors.
Expect the Unexpected features artworks drawn from RAM’s collection that incorporate unusual, surprising, or challenging materials. Rather than shying away from the potential care challenges they might entail, RAM embraces these objects as reflections of the inventiveness and experimentation that characterizes much contemporary art. However, RAM acknowledges that preserving and caring for works made of unusual materials does present some unexpected challenges. For example, artist Wesley Fleming’s Hornet’s Nest—which combines an actual found hornet’s nest with flameworked glass hornets—poses long-term conservation issues that are far different than those of a traditional ceramic or glass vessel. Similarly, artist Joy Raskin created spoon brooches with handles accented with actual aspirin tablets, which necessitate strategies for preservation far different from those usually associated with metal jewelry and objects.
Artists in the Exhibition
Jerry Bleem, Patty Cokus, Susie Colquitt, Ben J. Cunningham, Teresa Faris, Wesley Fleming, Robly A. Glover, Lindsay Obermeyer, Emiko Oye, Joy Raskin, Karyl Sisson, Janna Syvänoja, Cynthia Toops, Jan Yager, and Sebastian Zarius