New three-part art installation at the JSMA brings plastic to life

Sarah Bernhardt from Rebus,' Vik Muniz

Sixty pieces of art exploring the story plastic will be featured in the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art’s upcoming exhibit, "Plastic Entanglements: Ecology, Aesthetics, Materials," at the University of Oregon Sept. 22- Dec. 30.

"Plastic Entanglements" was organized by curator Joyce Robinson at the Palmer Museum of Art at Pennsylvania State University and includes work by 30 contemporary artists from around the globe.

"The artists in 'Plastic Entanglements' are researchers, activists and perceptual engineers who change the way people see and think about this pervasive material in the built environment and natural world," said Cheryl Hartup, the museum’s associate curator of Latin American art.

Artists working on the project include Mark Dion, Marina Zurkow, Zanele Muholi and Vik Muniz. Their work examines the environmental, aesthetic and technological implications of plastic and how it infiltrates virtually every aspect of people’s lives.

"Plastic Entanglements" is displayed in three sections, charting a timeline of society’s relationship with plastic.

One section, "The Archive," examines the ways in which plastic objects make up an inadvertent record of daily life from the mid-20th century onwards.

"The Entangled Present" reveals the ways in which plastic binds people, plants and animals together across diverse global systems. The works focus on the complex effects of plastic on ecological networks as well as on current artistic practice.

The exhibition concludes with a section dedicated to "Speculative Futures," asking what unknown worlds are emerging from the omnipresence of plastic.

Danielle Knapp, McCosh Associate Curator, and Hartup are overseeing the exhibition this fall.

“‘Plastic Entanglements’ presents an opportunity for local and regional audiences to reflect on the global implications of plastics consumption as well as its complex presence right here in our own community," Knapp said. "The artwork on view will expand visitors' understanding about the plastic crisis and may even inspire a call to action."

Following its installation at the museum, the exhibit will travel to the Smith College Museum of Art in February.

The art museum's presentation of "Plastic Entanglements” is made possible with support from the Coeta and Donald Barker Changing Exhibitions Endowment, Arlene and Jordan Schnitzer, the Oregon Arts Commission, the National Endowment for the Arts and museum members.