In this group, the everyday is abstracted, not erased—materials and objects are reworked, reassembled, repurposed, and transformed. This is not a new premise, as generations of creatives have used this approach. These works embrace the possibilities of ordinary objects and materials: those that facilitate tasks, those that populate our homes, those we wear, and those we discard. In abstracting the source, artists ask us to consider what associations are tied to their chosen materials, despite the ways they transform them beyond their original state.
The degrees to which these artists manipulate their quotidian materials vary. Altering perceptions is fundamental to Willie Cole. In Untitled Skull (II) (1992), a steam iron becomes a human cranium. The transformation allows us to readily connect the object to the hands that activate it and a history of generations of unsung domestic laborers. Senga Nengudi’s R.S.V.P. V (1973) leans into the properties of nylon stockings, namely their engineered purpose to flex and mold to the needs of a body. The stockings evoke the elasticity of the body—what it can withstand—but also the tensions of its possible limit.
Artists Derrick Adams and Shinique Smith look to fashion for materials, from which they draw out the geometric and organic, respectively. In The Journey (2017), Adams uses clothing patterns as his collage materials, embracing the possibilities of their abstract forms and their geometric essence. Smith layers and molds discarded or surplus textiles in Black and White Floaty (2006). By reinvigorating materials deemed irrelevant, the artist calls attention to the excessive consumption that powers the fashion industry. Lastly, in Stripes (2016), Rodney McMillian uses a post-consumer bedsheet—highlighting its canvas-like qualities—and applies stripes of latex to add texture to the fabric. For the artist, used objects, like bed linens, address matters of intimacy, as they can imply bodies even in their absence.
Everyday Reconsiderations was organized by Zuna Maza, former Joint Curatorial Fellow, The Studio Museum in Harlem and The Museum of Modern Art.