Stolen Art?

Walking through the door of Essays and Observations on opening night of “Appropriations” I immediately became conscious of my observer status. In fact, everyone surrounding the art works, like specimens, falls into the position of “observer” looking over art and pondering over it’s theoretical implications with a cigarette in hand and a dazed other-worldly look. Even the dog lounging beneath the paintings and gnawing on the plush soccer ball has a pensive expression.

What is Appropriation intended to mean anyway? A concise essay that accompanies the exhibit explains just that, making sure to note quite humorously that: “Nor has it anything to do with stealing (there is a difference between putting on a Shakespeare play and asserting that you wrote it).” Instead Appropriation means that an object is taken up anew allowing for the re-contextualization of the object. So no, we are not all thieves.

Is Stealing Natural?

For this particular exhibit, Appropriation has a natural feel. A live plant adorns the entrance, and the first visible artwork on the right-hand side from Pierre-Olivier Arnaud is a series of botanic images plastered onto the wall with almost a microscopic quality about them.

On the opposite wall, peering on almost in envy, is the work of the accused “artist who steals for a living” Roisin Byrne. Among other things, Byrne has apparently eaten stolen Swarvoski crystals only to release them through “natural bodily processes” and make art with them. In this particular exhibition, Byrne presents an email trail that shows how she was scolded for misleading artist Simon Starling and stealing part of his plant installation in Spain, only to take it back to the UK with her on a Ryanair flight. The humorous title of “You don’t bring me flowers anymore” reminded me of an all-too-common female complaint, with a funny artistic twist to it.

Roisin Byrne "You don't bring me flowers anymore"

Hate mail. Roisin Byrne “You don’t bring me flowers anymore,” 2009. Photo Courtesy of Essays and Observations. Photographer: Julie Anne Miranda-Brobeck

Other highlights of the exhibit include Johannes Regin’s intricately constructured pieces from various natural materials, collage pieces by Michalis Pichler with the charming Marlboro man peering through flowers with absurd names, and Jonathan Monk’s dark-humored, four piece work entitled “A view from the grave.” Curious to see what this view is? Check out Appropriations while it lasts.

  • Essays and Observations Appropriations: Jonathan Monk, Johannes Regin, Michalis Pichler, Pierre-Olivier Arnaud, and Roisin Byrne – May 12th – June 23rd 2012. Saturdays: 2-7pm (or by appointment).