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Material Matters

Material Matters focuses on the work of twenty artists from the United States, Mexico, Britain, Brazil, Japan, and Pakistan who share certain sensibilities. They have in common an engagement with material, reflections on everyday life, and homage to the traditions of art. The artists included in the exhibition look for inspiration in the everyday world of the urban environment, their materials coming from diverse sources but rarely, if at all, from the traditional art store. By transforming mundane materials, these artists explore the line that separates reality from fiction. Taking everyday materials and changing them into new narratives or forms, the artists in Material Matters suggest the playfulness of things and the inventiveness of the human spirit.

Engaging the language of Minimal and Conceptual art of the 1960s and 1970s, the artists in Material Matters are indebted to Marcel Duchamp’s ready-mades, first introduced in 1913, when he fixed an ordinary bicycle wheel to a stool and exhibited it. Since then, the meaning of art has become more complex, no longer reliant on the purely visual, but rather an exploration of what everyone sees and consumes.

While many of the included artists have emerged only in recent years, some have been working with mundane materials since the late 1980s. Material Matters addresses three major and, at times, overlapping themes. One theme revolves around the artist as cultural sociologist. Another involves artists who begin with the ephemera of everyday life, and by sheer accumulation achieve an aesthetic transformation. Yet another group brings an air of humorous spontaneity to these materials.

Ultimately, the goal of the exhibition is to introduce our audience to international contemporary artistic practices through the work of established and emerging artists who challenge our preconceptions of what constitutes art and question art as wholly distinct from the everyday world.

This exhibition was funded in part by a grant from the Cornell Council for the Arts and public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency.

Andrea Inselmann
Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art

The Artists
Eduardo Abaroa
Tonico Lemos Auad
Jean Blackburn
Lucky DeBellevue
Tara Donovan
Tony Feher
Ceal Floyer
Tom Friedman
Felix Gonzalez-Torres
Tim Hawkinson
Gabriel Kuri
Christian Marclay
Vik Muniz
Matthew Northridge
Jean Shin
Dan Steinhilber
Jessica Stockholder
Yuken Teruya
Cheyney Thompson
Shirley Tse