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Home » News » The Ringling Museum Exhibition Re: Purposed Explores Use of Discarded Materials

The Ringling Museum Exhibition Re: Purposed Explores Use of Discarded Materials

Published February 10, 2015

The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art will present an exhibition highlighting contemporary artists who regularly incorporate cast-off or disposed materials in their creation of new works.

Featuring the work of 10 artists—including established artists such as El Anatsui and Nick Cave, emerging and mid-career artists such as Jill Sigman, Emily Noelle Lambert, and Mac Premo—”Re:Purposed” will explore several of the distinct trends among artists who consistently “repurpose” garbage in their respective practices.

Aurora Robson

Aurora Robson
Everything All At Once Forever, 2011, Installation comprised of 16 sculptures; each made out of plastic debris (PET plastic), rivets, tinted polycrylic, and mica,
image courtesy of the artist

Evolving from Marcel Duchamp’s early 20th century development of the “readymade” and continuing the tradition of assemblage, these artists reinvent non-traditional materials to create artworks, encouraging new thinking about the objects and materials that surround us.  Organized by Matthew McLendon, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at The Ringling, the exhibition will be on view from Feb. 13, 2015 through May 17, 2015 and feature the work of the following artists:

“Over the past several years, I’ve encountered a range of artists who, while working with very different materials and genres, all incorporate and reinvent cast-off materials in their creation of new artworks,” McLendon said.  “This practice of making art, which expands traditional assemblage, deserves more attention, and we wanted to bring a core group of these artists together and, through this exhibition, give them a critical platform and voice to introduce our visitors to their work.”

Showcasing over 30 works of art, all created within the last few years, “Re:Purposed” will bring these inventive artists together for the first time and will present their work across three themes: “Identity,” “Index,” and “Environment.”  McLendon selected these themes as points of entry into this diverse and complex body of work, which encompasses expanded notions of sculpture, collage, performance and monumental installations. Each theme presents a different aspect of our relationship to what we consume and then discard, and serve as a reminder of our close connections to the materials we use to create and facilitate our lives.

“The Ringling is proud to present a robust program of exhibitions and performances that highlight the wide range of contemporary art practices at work today,” Steven High, executive director of The Ringling said. “Last year’s “R. Luke DuBois – Now” exhibition highlighted the work of an artist who used unconventional materials, often big data and complex codes, to create dynamic, mixed-media works; and with “Re:Purposed,” we are continuing that trajectory of showcasing contemporary artworks made of ‘non-traditional’ materials, and this time demonstrating the complex and powerful meanings embedded in the everyday objects that surround us.”

In considering “Environment,” the exhibition will highlight contemporary artists who have used the re-purposing of discarded materials to voice concerns about the environmental consequences of late-capitalist consumption. An especially prominent work will be choreographer and artist Jill Sigman’s site-specific piece for her ongoing “Hut Project” series (2009–present), for which Sigman creates huts made from found materials that she collects in each project location.

To create “Hut #10” for The Ringling, Sigman has spent several weeks in Sarasota, FL, collecting materials from across the area and from members of The Ringling community that will be used to build the new work. Sigman will continue working on “Hut #10” during exhibition previews and will conclude construction as the exhibition opens to the public. The work of Aurora Robson, who uses her childhood nightmares as source materials and transforms thousands of PET plastic bottles into unrecognizable and fantastical large-scale sculptures and installations, will also help visitors contemplate their relationship to the objects they enter into the waste stream.

Mac Premo, The Dumpster Project, Pulse Miami, 2011, Mixed media, © Mac Premo, image courtesy of the artist and Pavel Zoubok Gallery, New York

Mac Premo, The Dumpster Project, Pulse Miami, 2011, Mixed media, © Mac Premo, image courtesy of the artist and Pavel Zoubok Gallery, New York

For the notion of “Identity,” McLendon has selected artists whose works underscore our construction of identities and personae through the collecting and eventual discarding of objects, whether bought or scavenged. A selection of “Soundsuits” constructed by Nick Cave out of objects collected at flea markets and antique shops, and complex sculptures created by visual and performance artist Vanessa German from materials such as vintage matchbox covers and whiskey stirrers, will illustrate how the “object biography”—or the accumulation of biographical associations embodied by an object—easily become entangled with the biographies of both the artist who adopts and re-uses them and the viewers that encounter them in an entirely new form.

Extending from the concept of “Identity” is “Index”, which will be explored through works that demonstrate the profound indexical nature of the objects that people cast-off. While Brooklyn-based artist Emily Noelle Lambert’s “found form” sculpture may not at first appear indexical, each constituent piece recalls a story and a place for the Lambert, which she recombines to create new, often totemic sculptures. Another notable work will be Mac Premo’s monumental installation, “The Dumpster Project.” Triggered by his need to move to a smaller studio, the Brooklyn-based artist catalogued and photographed nearly 500 objects that he collected for his collage practice over the past decade—including everything from a diving mask to a baseball Yarmulke—and he has installed these objects as one monumental collage piece in a 30-yard dumpster. For “Re:Purposed,” Premo will visit The Ringling and install the dumpster on the grounds of the museum, inviting visitors to enter the dumpster and explore the large-scale piece at their own pace.

“Re:Purposed” is part of The Ringling’s 2014-2015 Art of Our Time season, which showcases artists who transcend traditional boundaries in both medium and practice, and is supported by a grant from Gulf Coast Community Foundation. This exhibition was paid for in part by Sarasota County Tourist Development Tax revenues, the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation, Saks Fifth Avenue and the State of Florida Cultural Endowment Program.  Additional support was generously provided by the Ting Tsung and Wei Fong Chao Foundation Endowment, the Philip D. and Unni Kaltenbacher Endowment, the Publix Super Markets Charities Endowment, the William G. and Marie Selby Foundation Endowment, the Peter and Mary Lou Vogt Museum Generated Exhibition Fund and The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art Foundation.
Mac Premo, The Dumpster Project, with artist, Pulse Miami, 2011 & 2012, Mixed media, © Mac Premo, image courtesy of the artist and Pavel Zoubok Gallery, New York

Nick Cave, Soundsuit, 2008 & 2013, mixed media including hats, bags, and rag rugs, 110 x 36 x 32 inches, © Nick Cave. Photo by James Prinz Photography. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

Exhibition Catalogue and Programs

Vanessa German, Reality Check: To Call the Police Use this Phone, 2013, Mixed media assemblage, © Vanessa German, image courtesy of the artist and Pavel Zoubok Gallery, New York

Vanessa German, Reality Check: To Call the Police Use this Phone, 2013, Mixed media assemblage, © Vanessa German, image courtesy of the artist and Pavel Zoubok Gallery, New York

A fully illustrated catalogue published by Scala Arts Publishers, Inc. will accompany the show and features an introduction by Matthew McLendon, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Ringling; and interviews with the artists featured in Re:Purposed.

 Art of Our Time

“Art of Our Time” at the Ringling Museum of Art is an initiative dedicated to presenting cross-disciplinary exhibitions and performances that explore the diverse ideas and forms at play in the contemporary arts today.  Through the “Art of Our Time,” the Ringling promotes a holistic understanding of contemporary artistic practices and showcases artists that transcend genres.  Building on the legacy of the Ringling’s first executive director A. Everett “Chick” Austin, Jr., the “Art of Our Time” comprises an ever-evolving roster of programming that engages audiences through direct interactions with art that defies traditional categorization.

Major programs related to “Re:Purposed” will include:

Viewpoint Lecture: “From Duchamp to Garbage – The Legacy of the Found Object” –February 14

Presented by Dr. Matthew McLendon, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art and curator of the exhibition, this talk will explore the history of the found object and its continuing influence on contemporary art.

Gallery Performance – February 14

Jill Sigman will welcome visitors into her completed “Hut #10,” the latest “outpost” in this international series of site-specific works. Visitors will be encouraged to contemplate and discuss our complex relationship with the things that we consume while being served tea by the artist.

Study Day – March 28

Continuing on from the success of last year’s “Genre Creates Ghetto: Curating in a Post-Genre World,” this will be the second gathering of preeminent artists and museum professionals discussing the shifting terrain of artistic practice and the necessity of the museum as well as other cultural institutions to evolve and meet the needs of artists whose work exists outside of traditional genres.

Performance – March 28

Jill Sigman will return to The Ringling to create a movement performance that connects her site-specific installation “Hut #10” to our private archaeologies of things thrown away, her own personal history, and The Ringling grounds.


General Admission includes the Ringling Museum of Art, special exhibitions, Ca’ d’Zan Mansion, Circus Museum, and Mable’s historic Rose Garden, all on 66 acres of lushly landscaped grounds. Adults are $25; senior citizens (65 and over) are $20; children ages 6-17 are $5; a three-day pass is $35.  Free Admission for children 5 and under accompanied by an adult, museum member.  Advance tickets are available online or by calling 941.358.3180. Visit for more information.

The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Florida State University, is one of the largest museum/university complexes in the nation.  It preserves the legacy of John and Mable Ringling, educating and enabling a large and diverse audience to experience and take delight in a world-renowned collection of fine art; Ca’ d’Zan, the Ringling’s mansion; the Circus Museum; the Historic Asolo Theater; and historic architecture, courtyard, gardens and grounds overlooking Sarasota Bay.