“Work by Professor Ron Klein’s Appropriated Art Class
~ Aileen Brier ‘16, Gallery Exhibition Research Assistant
Appropriated art is the making of art from everyday objects. In the early twentieth century, artists such as the Cubists, including Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, assembled collages from everyday objects such as newspaper clippings. Marcel Duchamp introduced the readymades, or found objects presented as works of art, most famously “Fountain,” a signed urinal, in 1917. Readymades brought to light the question, ‘What is art?’ Was it a piece that was aesthetically pleasing, or was it what the artist chose and defined that made it art? In the middle of the twentieth century, Pop Art used everyday images people saw and questioned divisions between “high art” and “low art.” One of the best examples of this strategy is Andy Warhol’s silkscreens of Campbell’s soup cans and images of Marilyn Monroe. Today artists continue to make appropriated art.
Learning about this history and with guidance from Professor Ron Klein, a successful appropriation artist himself, the students carried out many of their projects with exciting and innovative ideas. For the Book Project, they reconfigured books into pieces of art. Some students looked at the formal aspects of the book in terms of it qualities of texture, color, message. Others focused more on the conceptual side of the project; what they personally wanted to portray to viewers not so much through the book’s message, but more through the design. Mary Madeline de Bellescize, a sophomore, focused on a more conceptual and personal angle to the Book Project. She wished to convey a more playful and childlike feel to her piece, rather than being confined to the context of the actual book.
An additional project of Professor Klein’s Appropriated Art class was to go to a Dollar Store with fifty dollars and buy multiples of the same objects. Professor Klein wanted his students to work with the idea of repetition, from the hundreds of toy soldiers assembled to resemble a tree to the twenty Barbie’s that dangle from the ceiling. In repeating the same object or idea over and over again, he believes that “chaos becomes order.” “Repetition is all around us; one only has to look at a wooden floor,” says Klein. In Emily Blair’s piece, for example, multiple Barbies were used to emphasize that the conventional beauty that Barbie represents is unrealistic and that all women have their own original beauty. Therefore, Emily, as she puts it, “transformed each one into a more realistic interpretation of a woman.”
The February Art Show exemplifies much of what artists are doing today through finding and incorporating what they see in their everyday lives. Professor Klein provides a wonderful example of these methods in his own work, which are well recognized and are displayed by places such as the Philadelphia Airport and the Howard Scott Gallery in New York City. The viewer only has to see the projects of the Appropriated Art classes to know how much hard work and creativity went into the making of these pieces.