Raw + Material = Art

Refashioning scrap material into uniquely meaningful works of art

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Accompanying a growing awareness of the wastefulness underlying the modern global economy, a new approach to art has flourished in recent years, one dealing with the repurposing and utilization of materials discarded or viewed as useless. Written by street art commentator Tristan Manco, the new book “Raw + Material = Art” delves into these techniques and philosophies by exploring the works of 38 artists using low-tech, low-cost media and methods. The selected artists provoke thought on both subject and medium, and continue to push what’s possible by working at “the raw edge of contemporary art.”


Spanning old skateboard decks to plastic children’s toys to teabags, the works highlighted in “Raw + Material = Art” have a dual purpose. In an age of digital production and computer-engineered perfection, they signify a back-to-basics approach, bringing a new respect to the cultivation of a craft. Through their choice of materials, artists also convey a message of awareness of our environment and the resources we use or abuse within it. Although often indebted to past artists, notably Marcel Duchamp, the raw art displayed in Manco’s book is a response to veritably modern phenomena.


“We take it for granted these days that art can be made from any substance or object…it is not surprising in itself if an artist presents us with a work made from unusual materials” writes Manco in his introduction. “However, even if we anticipate spectacle, we can still be struck by such a work.” The works Manco focuses on transcend mere gimmickry, working within unorthodox media without being tied down by them.

The book’s layout is fairly straightforward. Listing the artists alphabetically, Manco provides an insightful background for each alongside a generous allocation of large, color photographs. Locations range from Rio de Janeiro to Tokyo, giving a comprehensive portrait of the fittingly global expanse of a scene that deals with the detritus of globalization and mass production.

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Artists include AJ Fosik, who constructs technicolor creatures out of hundreds of individually shaped pieces of plywood, Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman, who, often working with scrap materials such as shrink foil, salvaged wood, or flip-flops, erects large animal sculptures in public areas, and Brooklyn-based Mia Pearlman, who carves intricate “cloudscapes” out of sheets of paper.


Several artists previously featured on Cool Hunting also make an appearance in the book, including Gabriel Dawe, who creates prismatic structures out of miles of colorful thread, Ron van der Ende, whose modern bas-relief work is done in recycled wood, and Brian Dettmer, who carves intricate sculptures by carefully peeling away layers of the pages of books.


“Raw + Material = Art” is available for purchase on Amazon and from publishers Thames & Hudson.