In the tradition of the first readymades, Gallery 705 in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania is showing a collection of assemblages, photos of assemblages and wall sculptures created from "recycled" or discarded objects and other "found" materials. Highlights include Minnesota artist Nick Schleif's monumental portraits of Abraham Lincoln and cigarette mascot Joe Camel, assembled from thousands of pennies and butts, respectively.
While Duchamp's Fountain is often invoked as ancestor of contemporary found art, the comparison here is a bit fraught. Many artists working in this mode add substantial value to their materials, either assembling them in new and fixed relationships, sculpting, inscribing or otherwise transmuting trash into semiotically charged works of art that are then eligible for enshrinement in the museum.
According to myth, Duchamp simply inverted a urinal, signed it (pseudonymously) and proclaimed it art; his more heavily altered readymade assemblages were "assisted." Is this a different gesture from the painstaking work of collating pennies, stitching rags or etching ice? But if those early readymades were actually simulacra crafted by Duchamp from raw materials, invented and not found, what then? The conceptual bicycle wheel spins....
("Reclaimed," through March 27 at Gallery 705.)