For some artists, it is as simple as collecting objects on sidewalks in a shared neighborhood. It can be refurbishing used tires into environmental art statements or stylish wallets or briefcases. It depends on how broad your view of found art is.
What is Found Art?
Art that is found. Most contemporary artists now interpret this as rediscovered, refurbished, repurposed, or reused. It may be that you are looking at something left on the side of a street, thinking, “Why did they throw that out? It needs a paint job.” You, the artist, find an irresistible object in a store, on the street, in your friend’s garage while you are helping to get ready for a yard sale, or under your bed.
Some found objects are created in the fury and frenzy of artistic creation. In the excitement of creating a found art piece, some artists deconstruct items in their home or will use objects in their immediate vicinity to assist in evoking emotions felt at the time or powerful concepts. Found Object Art is created by the use of every day or truly found objects, given purpose and significance by those who find and conceptualized them into artwork.
Is Found Art Modern Art? History into Contemporary Art
Found Art is thought to have practicing origins from the artist Marcel Duchamp, whose ready-made works were controversial for the turn of the twentieth century. He created such famous works as Fountain and Bottle Rack.
Around the time of Pablo Picasso’s cubist phase of creation, Picasso also employed the use of found objects, such as La Petite Chouette (an owl constructed from found objects), which was made from household and building materials, including screws, pliers, a missing piece of a saucepan, and pliers. The piece is said to have sold in 2000 for over one million dollars. Picasso’s piece was grounded in expressing the emotions he felt at the moment of creation.
Female artists had their hands in the beginnings of found art as well. Louise Nelson created unique three-dimensional sculptures from wood in the 1930s.
Dadaists (ManRay as a prime mover) and Surrealists incorporated found objects into their practices. Post-Modernists or Contemporary works carry on the tradition today with variants and combinations of pre-occurring art movements, with new subgenres, such as Steampunk, Assemblage, and Junk Art. Both Found Art and its subgenre Assemblage have a relation to collage, of which Picasso is a famous practitioner. Rauschenberg’s paintings are a dynamic combination of a flat surface with protruding found objects, resulting in a common connection between everyday life and art as more than association.
Duchamp, Hirst, ManRay, Picasso, Nelson, Koons, Schwitters. These are but a few of the names that assisted in the success, persistence, and development of Found Art as a movement.
The development of Found Art can also be seen in mainstream consumerism and the efforts of society to Go Green. Used Rubber USA, an intriguing example, takes used tires and reuses them, in the form of stylish wallets, ID holders, briefcases, and other forms.
Found Art is Not True Art? The Critics
Throughout its development as an art movement and practice, Found Art has faced criticism. Duchamp’s Fountain (an unusable urinal) was rejected in 1917 by the Society of Independent Artists as not true art. There is still those today who view Found Art and other related movements as a not a true form of art. Many, like Damien Hirst, suggest that even traditional forms of art are truly Found Art. (Paint is transformed into its medium by scientific and biological means and placed on a canvas, given significance by the artist and the viewer.)
There were those before the Modern art era who recognized the potential of turning everyday objects into fine art. We see it in the conceptual, aesthetic, and philosophical writings from the Greeks into the modern period. But what is Found Art?
The beauty of this movement is that is left up to the artist, who gives the found object its own life through the artist’s concept. An object that has undergone its period of existence and use has its own ready-made significance of which the artist taps into or chooses to ignore.