As children, we see magic in everything. With uninhibited imaginations, ideas of perfection have not permeated our psyche, and we exist to solely have fun. Everyone has experienced child-like wonder when, upon receiving a large, expensive gift, more interest lies in the cardboard box it arrived in than the Little Tykes Beauty Parlor set it held (sorry, Mom!).
Something as seemingly insignificant as a cardboard box, combined with boundless youthful dreaming, holds a world of possibilities: a spaceship to Mars, a castle, a train, a race car, a gingerbread house, or even an elevator. The cardboard box’s adaptable nature allows it to morph into whatever we want it to be.
But at a certain age, we lose this sense of magic and begin to look at things more literally. A cardboard box becomes just a box to be recycled or to help a friend move. We can no longer look past its practicality.
Brooklyn-based artist James Grashow is breaking that adult mindset in his latest exhibition opening at Cameron Art Museum this weekend (member’s only opening is Friday, March 7th, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.). He provides us with another alternative to challenge our standard views in “Corrugated World.” The exhibition features works made entirely of cardboard.
“If you go into a kindergarten class and ask who is an artist, everyone raises their hand,” Grashow tells. “If you go back a few years later and ask who is an artist, everyone points at one or two kids.”
As we grow up and gain more self-awareness and self-consciousness, we lose a certain amount of artistic liberation. By working on cardboard, Grashow finds it the shortest bridge back to that kindergartener’s freedom. His larger-than-life sized dancers, monkeys, birds, and flowers transform a world with which we are familiar, but it’s invigorated by the use of forgotten material. “I was inspired to create these dancers because it is all about how objects move in space,” he says.
Born in Brooklyn in 1942, Grashow attended Pratt University in New York where he received his BFA and a Fulbright Travel Grant to study painting and graphics in Florence, Italy. Upon returning from his studies, he went on to receive his MFA from Pratt as well.
His first sculpture show was at the Allan Stone Gallery in New York in 1966. Since, his work has been featured in numerous exhibitions, as well as museum and gallery collections worldwide.
“Corrugated World” marks his first show in Wilmington, and the first time locals will have access to his whimsical creations. Subverting our ideas surrounding cardboard, Grashow’s interest in the non-traditional material started because it was so non-threatening.
“When you are working with really expensive paper or on an expensive canvas, every gesture, every movement is expensive,” he explains, “but cardboard is totally uninhibited.”
Grashow’s love for cardboard developed at an extremely young age. In adulthood he has come to favor it because it’s basically mistake-proof.
“It intrinsically knows that it is going to be trash,” he says, “so it becomes the perfect play-partner because it is grateful to be repurposed. I think it has the same adaptable DNA as humans, and that’s what makes it so extraordinary.”
Grashow’s artistic themes address the temporal world of man, nature and mortality. Cardboard doesn’t last forever—rain washes it away, and it eventually breaks down and falls apart. What Grashow has done is forced us to re-examine physical elements in a completely revolutionary way.
“The cardboard is so light that it is easy to work with,” he explains. “I knew I could take advantage of it to build these colossal figures so they could move within the space and create space between them as they rotate.”
“Corrugated World” will be on display through August 3rd. For more information visit www.cameronartmuseum.org.
Art by James Grashow
Through August 4th
Cameron Art Museum
3201 S 17th Street
Member’s only reception!
March 7th, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Community Art Day
Saturday, March 15th, noon – 4 p.m.
Create artwork with James Grashow that will become part of an original sculpture included in “Corrugated World.”
Admission by donation