Can Discarded Items Be Considered Art

I am not a fan of pop-art.  It just all seems ridiculous to me.  Since this is a positive blog I really had to do some digging to find something that I liked and after much searching I was able to find a couple artists that are pretty interesting.  The first is a man named Haim Steinbach.  Haim Steinbach was born in Israel and moved to that United States as a kid.  He started getting noticed for his art in the 1970’s.  His works are primarily arrangements of discarded items.  He also creates the stands that they are displayed on.

1froot loops

froot loops 1 2007 New York

Untitled (dog chew, chocolate Santa)_F

Untitled (dog chew, chocolate Santa) 1A 2008 New York

hst_2009-emergency_sign_A

Untitled (emergency sign, shot glasses, dog chews) 2009 New York

hst_2008_flyingdutchman2_A

flying Dutchman 2  2008 New York

Steinbach Mr. Peanut 1

mr. peanut 2008 New York

1tonkong rubbermaid

tongkong rubbermaid II-1  2007 New York

I honestly cannot say why I like the work of Haim Steinbach.  There is something simple about it that draws my attention towards the boxes of Froot Loops in the first piece.  It might have to do with the spacing in Untitled and Flying Dutchman.  I like how the lines of the display and the warning triangle work together to create a sense of being off balance.  And the brightness of the yellow in the last piece offset by the darkness off to the right of it draws my attention too.  And I keep coming back to the same question over and over.  What is this dude’s obsession with dog chew toys?  Does he live near a pound?  There aren’t many answers to be found but, a lot of questions and I like that about the work of Haim Steinbach.

Next is an artist named Jim Gary.  As a child he moved out of his parents home at the age of eleven and started to support himself.  From early on he showed a natural mechanical skill and was able to build himself a bike and when he was old enough to drive a car.  After learning how to weld in the Navy he started to weld sculptures out of old automobile parts.  The most famous of which are his traveling exhibit Jim Gary’s Twentieth Century Dinosaurs.  Created in 1979 in New Jersey this exhibit traveled the world.

Stegosaurus-cropped

No Name 1979   New Jersey

Jim-Gary-012-150x150 

No Name 1979 New Jersey

Jim-Gary-002-150x150

No Name 1979 New Jersey

Jim-Gary-016-150x150

No Name 1979 New Jersey

dragonslayer

No Name 1979 New Jersey

Jim-Gary-004-150x150

No Name 1979 New Jersey

The reason that I like all of these pieces is that often art comes across as pretentious and self important.  These dinosaur sculptures made out of old auto parts are just fun.  From the bright colors to the fact that they are dinosaurs they just take me back to when I was a kid and dinosaurs were the most amazing thing that I had ever heard of.  

After doing this assignment I believe that discarded items, otherwise known as junk, can be made into art.  From old cereal boxes to old car parts, when arranged properly can inspire both questions and awe and that is what good art is supposed to do. 

 

“Haim Stienbach”  Wikipedia.  Web.  15 October 2013.  5 August 2014.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haim_Steinbach

“Haim Steinbach”  Haim Steinbach.  Web.  5 August 2014.

http://haimsteinbach.net/

“Jim Gary’s Twentieth Century Dinosaurs”  Web.  5 August 2014

http://tallahasseemuseum.org/explore-the-museum/museum-exhibits/jim-g-20th-century/#/

“Jim Gary”  Wikipedia.  Web.  20 June 2014.  5 August 2014

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Gary

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Do the Right Thing

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Do the Right Thing is a film written and directed by Spike Lee and released in 1989. I chose this film for a couple of reasons. First, if I am going to watch a movie for an assignment I want to watch a movie that I enjoy. Second and more important, this is a very powerful film on race relations that asks many difficult questions but offers little to no answers on why people are the way that they are. Upon it’s release it received both critical acclaim and commercial success. On a $6 million budget it made over $36 million. The film was nominated for two Academy Awards and won 18 other awards. Since then it was recognized as a culturally significant film by the U.S. Library of Congress and has been preserved by the National Film Registry.

The screenplay was written by Spike Lee and is fairly typical subject matter for Spike Lee. The story takes place over twelve hours on the hottest day of the summer in Brooklyn and is mainly about race relations but is told primarily through the eyes of the African Americans that live in the area. Most of the action takes place on the street corner. On one side of the corner is Sal’s Famous, the local pizzeria owned by Italian Americans and frequented by the neighborhood African Americans. Across from that is a Korean market. And across from that is a street corner where a few middle-age African American men hang out. This is a really interesting setting because it allows for all of the races to interact in a realistic manner yet they all have their own corners to retreat to to get away from the other races as well.

The setting as well as the clothing, makeup, and hair all aiming for realism. The clothes are t-shirts, shorts, and sneakers. The makeup seems almost nonexistent as everybody spends the entire film covered in sweat. The hair looks like it was done at home in the morning before everybody left their house. It is nothing fancy. The way that the film was shot was pretty straight forward as far as special effects go. The only special effects that were used was at the end when Sal’s Famous was burnt to the ground. It wasn’t even special effects like we think of them today. They just started the place on fire and let it burn. The lighting was all natural lighting as far as I can tell. One of the sounds that was enhanced by a foley artist to maximize the sound was the breaking glass of Sal’s Famous near the end of the movie. The sound had to be heard over the loud protesting of the neighborhood residents. The musical score was composed by Bill Lee. It is a jazzy score with lots of saxophone. However the film revolves around an original song by Public Enemy named Fight the Power. It is a great song that is often featured at the top of all time greatest hip hop songs lists.

This film has a lot of creative transitions between scenes but my favorite one takes place between a scene at the pizzeria and The Story of Left Hand Right Hand scene. It is an overhead shot of a little black girl drawing with chalk on the sidewalk a picture of a home with an attached garage and a car in the driveway. It is a typical dream that many people have but is often seen as out of reach for those that come from the inner city. As the camera pans out a little the main character of the film, Mookie, walks across the drawing while on his way to deliver a pizza. The little girl is dreaming of what she wants out of life while the older man doesn’t have time to dream of a better life because he is too busy trying to live his life. The camera angles are fairly straight forward except when there is tension being shown between two different races such as the scene where Radio Raheem goes to purchase batteries at the Korean Market. He is a strong character that is the aggressor in the scene. When the camera is on him he stands over the counter, aggressively showing his dominance. When the camera is on the Korean store owners the camera towers over them showing their weakness in the situation.

There is a bit of symbolism in the film. The character of the Mayor is the only fatherly figure in the movie. He is a drunk and has no job. He represents the state of the African American male in the ’80’s. Absentee fathers more interested in drugs then being stand up citizens. There is a motherly character named Mother Sister. Her name is symbolic of girls way too young having children themselves, sometimes at the age that their kid would be the age of a sister that they might have. The main piece of symbolism in the movie though is the heat that is symbolic of the racial tensions that exist throughout the film. The more that they talk about the heat the more angry people seem to get about racial issues.

The standout actor in the film for me is Bill Nunn as Radio Raheem. I believe that his character represents what a black person is supposed to be in terms of getting respect. Raheem says few words but, with his quite powerful stare commands respect. When the people are on the street playing in the fire hydrant spray all he has to do is look at them and they block the water so that he can get by. When the Puerto Ricans start giving him hell he just stares at them quietly and lets them look like fools. When it comes time at the end to stand up for what is right he is the only one to help Buggin’ Out and stand up for what he believes in. He is also the catalyst for the end of the film when the cops kill him they are symbolically killing black strength, black hope. And Bill Nunn portrays all of this with a quiet, stoic strength.

Do the Right Thing is one of my all time favorite movies. Every time that I watch it I get a different view on race relations and what Spike Lee was trying to say. Sometimes I identify with the Italian pizzeria owners and feel sad that they lost their business. Other times I side with the neighborhood citizens and feel that their anger and actions are righteous. This time when it ended I was left with the question of what was Mookie’s motivation when he threw the trash can through the window of Sal’s Famous. Was he mad at Sal and taking out his anger on the building or was he trying to redirect the neighborhood’s anger away from hurting Sal himself and focusing that anger on an inanimate object? That is what makes this movie so great. There are just so many questions that this movie raises and the answers that are taken away are left up to the viewer.

 

“Do the Right Thing”  Wikipedia.  Web.  1 August 2014.  4 August 2014.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Do_the_Right_Thing