The old, familiar saying “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” rings true at a current exhibit called “Trash,” on display at the gallery Hold Up Art in Little Tokyo.
The idea behind the exhibition is one bred from an economically savvy and eco-friendly standpoint. To save money and help the environment, the nine artists featured in “Trash” have made works from gleaned materials, creating a show of multimedia works as well as straightforward paintings that use wood panels instead of expensive canvases as their backdrops.
Hold Up Art’s commitment to making art more accessible makes it the perfect spot for “Trash,” a show focused on discovering new wallet-friendly ways of creating art. The show is guest curated by Matthew Hodges, an exhibiting artist at Hold Up Art who handpicked eight of his favorite artists for the exhibition.
Hodges, who renders images of humans and animals with a child-like simplicity, is also one of the main artists featured in the exhibition. Hodges’ outlines of human figures are painted over haphazard newspaper ads. Though his pieces don’t necessarily encompass one main idea, they all seem to hold a certain playful quality: “Batman” is a reimagining of the famous superhero in a feathery suit, and “4 Loko” portrays humor with its mocking title, as it’s merely a rendering of three people and a nebulous dog.
Cody Lusby’s work is also highlighted in the exhibition. The painter, who goes by the codename “Mustachio,” describes himself as a mixture between modest and bold, his codename representing his more outgoing alter ego. True to his fake name, a tell-tale mustache is hidden in the artist’s pieces, which are already speckled with paint and torn-out images.
In the spirit of the exhibition, Lusby uses collaged materials and street-style stencil art in his artistic images, and the combination is truly something to behold: His images are both exuberantly cluttered and gracefully painted.
Though Lusby’s work has veered between the fantastical and the realistic, his pieces depict images of homelessness; and though “Norman Could Sleep Anywhere” and “The Beggar” sound like they might be an attempt to portray a grittier side of Los Angeles, they are in the same radiant style as his most vivid paintings.
Common threads connect Danny Schutt’s pieces throughout the exhibit in the most unexpected ways. Using history as a clear inspiration, Schutt’s works vary from depicting Soviet Union figures to woodsy Americana imagery. His pieces range from simple transfers of daguerreotype portraits (photographs taken by early cameras, employing iodine-sensitized silvered plates and mercury vapor) onto pieces of wood, to painted antlers, to an image of a moose placed over the pages of an encyclopedia. Though Schutt uses many different mediums, his artwork is easily recognized by its brazen hunting imagery.
“Trash” is about the reuse of discarded items, but many of the pieces don’t immediately appear to be made out of a coffee table or a chair. The pieces of art appear to be just that — pieces of art — and their transition from “chair” to “painting” is seamless.
Alex Chiu’s “Laser Eyes,” for example, is, at first glance, a painting that could be done on a simple piece of canvas. The piece is set apart in its useful repurposing of an old piece of wood.
Kilby Redell’s “Bass” plays up the concept of found items, taking an old bass and painting it with a colorful clown design. Craig “Skibs” Barker’s multimedia boxes show glimpses of painted lady’s legs, placed next to wire netting and little treasures the artist might have fittingly found from trash.
Though artists have long been repurposing found materials and incorporating them into collages and multimedia pieces, “Trash” celebrates the concept as something not only fun but beneficial — for the wallets of artists and for the environment.
“Why spend money on new canvas when you can reclaim a surface for free?” Hodge argues.
When even the production of these materials is harmful to the environment, his attitude seems fitting. “Trash” offers a proposal: Found objects need not simply be used to decorate art, but to reinvent how we think of the very objects we use to create art.
“Trash” will be running until Dec. 1 at Hold Up Art gallery.