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Tale of the Abandoned: Salvaged Works from Art School Waste

“To know the world that progress has left to us, we must track shifting patches of ruination.” — The Mushroom at the End of the World (2015) by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing

123 Bowery, 5th floor, New York

Nov 4 –Nov 19, 2023

The Catchers Curation is pleased to present Tale of the Abandoned: Salvaged Works from Art School Waste, a group exhibition featuring more than 170 discarded works (in their original forms and as archive cards) from art school dumpsters in New York, including the School of Visual Arts, The New School, and Pratt Institute. The exhibition runs from November 4th through November 19th, with a public reception on Saturday, November 4th from 7 to 9 pm.

Tale of the Abandoned presents artworks rescued from the edge of decomposition, whose former fate of abandonment is written over by the curator’s language of care and the viewer’s gaze of curiosity. Putting countless lost-and-found stories into dialogue, the exhibition encourages the viewer to contemplate the phenomenon of art abandonment from the perspectives of both a habitual discarder and an occasional treasure-hunter. Are art school dumpsters merely a mundane chapter of the short-lived life cycles of contemporary cultural productions? Or does it tell a story of aborted ambitions, artistic dilemmas, and profound human desires related to the lost and the (never) found?

Pained by their surrounding indifference to the semesterly cycle of artwork abandonment, The student curators of the Catchers Curation went through painstaking processes to collect the unattended artworks before studio clearance and to reconnect them with their creators. Nonetheless, the Catcher could only match 30 works with their creators and acquire the consent to exhibit. The 140 unclaimed pieces are pixelated into archive cards noted with mediums and locations of discovery, hanging from the ceiling. In addition, the unclaimed ones, while present in the exhibition space, are covered in black veils to signify anonymity. In a phenomenological disarray, the space interweaves well-defined lines with unidentifiable pixelation, sensuous colors with black veils, birth with death, and hope with melancholy.

Transformed into pixelated color blocks, the unclaimed artworks debut as an anonymous collective. They are no longer abstract oil paintings or tabletop sketches, nor do they exist as realistic portraits, photomontages, or prints. Redeemed from aesthetic ruins, the “lost ones” diverge from their former modes of expression by submitting to a language of homogeneity. As such, the exhibition constitutes a tale-less tale of the abandoned artworks and an ephemeral counter-storytelling.

The Catchers Curation is a student-led, not-for-profit organization comprising 40 art school students and art enthusiasts from New York City. Founded for this very exhibition, the Catchers aims to probe into the phenomenon of art abandonment and, by seeking the potential appreciators, find a home for the abandoned artworks collected in their schools rather than the landfills.


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