On Sept. 2, the USC Fisher Museum of Art opened its doors with two new exhibitions. The first exhibit, Gyre: The Plastic Ocean, features works of all art mediums conveying the realities of global plastic pollution. Also on display is Cynthia Minet: Beast of Burden, which presents art created almost exclusively out of recycled plastics, such as toys, milk bottles and everyday items.
Gyre: The Plastic Ocean investigates “issues of the contemporary culture of consumption and its consequences on nature,” according to its press release. The installation, which first opened in 2014 at the Anchorage Museum, features Los Angeles-based artist Cynthia Minet’s multimedia sculpture “Pack Dogs,” which intricately combines recycled plastics and LED lights molded into five Husky dogs pulling a sleigh.
“The colors of the dogs represent the Aurora Borealis,” said Minet, who created the sculpture specifically for this exhibition. “The order of the colors represents the sequence of colors in the Borealis.”
Plans for the arrival of Gyre: The Plastic Ocean have been in the works since early 2014, according to Fisher Museum curator Ariadni Liokatis. In the spring of that year, Fisher Museum curators approached Minet to commission a solo exhibit to accompany “Pack Dogs.” Cynthia Minet: Beast of Burden is exclusive to the Fisher Museum and features illuminated sculptures similar to those seen in her past exhibit, Unsustainable Creatures, including a series of raptors suspended from the ceiling.
Gyre: The Plastic Ocean also features a colossal work by Atlanta-based artist Pam Longobardi. The sculpture, entitled “Bounty, Pilfered,” is shaped from ocean plastic and drift nets found by the artist herself on the beaches of North America and Greece, as well as the North Pacific Gyre. The materials are sculpted into a cornucopia of black plastic with ocean debris cascading out from the hollow.
“[The title] is a direct reference to BP Oil,” said Longobardi, alluding to the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 for which BP Oil has been held responsible. “The ocean is getting all this [pollution], and it’s vomiting it back up on beaches all over the world — and I go and find it.”
In addition to Longobardi’s work, the exhibition also features art by Evelyn Rydz, Fran Crowe and Dianna Cohen. Cohen, a Los Angeles native, is no stranger to plastic; she began using plastic bags as her primary medium more than 20 years ago.
“We think of plastic as this thing that represents the future and all these great things that we depend upon,” Cohen said. “It’s such an interesting and loaded material.”
Cohen is also the CEO of Plastic Pollution Coalition, which she co-founded in 2009. The alliance has expanded into a global organization working to stop plastic pollution and encourage people to reduce their plastic footprint.
“Plastic pollution has no boundaries,” Cohen said. “It’s become much more prevalent at the beach, in the sand and in the water.”
Cynthia Minet: Beast of Burden is on display until Oct. 10. Gyres: The Plastic Ocean is on display until Nov. 21.