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Recycled Art: Car Parts As Art

July 1, 2011

If anything is new to art history in the past century, it has to be the use of automobile parts for art.  Many other machines such as appliances, airplanes et al have been reclaimed for artistic expression, yet car parts are the most prolific and readily available.  I definitely admire the artists that pull out the cutting torches and welding tools, the nuts, bolts and rivets, and go goldmine the materials piling up in junk yards and scrap piles.  Here is a round-up of some car parts as art.

Untitled (screech) by Chris Bradley, 2009, 62” x 44” x 16”

I saw this at Art Chicago / Next in 2010.  The label for the piece read like a recipe book of its component parts: car windshield and wiper system, steel, unistrut, ratchet strap, foam, rubber, power supply and microcontroller.  The is the first instance I have seen where a sculpture was an electricity driven kinetic work.

Toy by John Chamberlain, 1961, 136 x 98 x 77.5 cm (53 1/2 x 38 1/2 x 30 1/2 in.)

This is an early piece in MAIC which is on display in the gallery with the New York School Abstract Expressionists.  Materials are listed as steel, paint and plastic.  When this was made, the idea of recycled materials or upcycled materials as art assemblage was not widely accepted. 

Nightingale by Dessa Kirk, 1999, Cadillac cars / steel, 12’ tall

I took the above photograph; the lower photograph is from the Oakton Community College website.  If you are in the Chicago Metropolitan area, Oakton Community College in Des Plaines, Illinois has an incredible art collection, great curated art gallery shows and an outdoor sculpture walk.  Dessa Kirk used yellow car body steel for this floral form; I like how it is aging and rusting, it reminds me of the spots naturally on orange Tiger Lillies.

Owl by James Corbett, car parts metal sculpture

Walking Miss Daisy by James Corbett, 1905x889x1600 cm.

James Corbett is an Australian artist that does highly polished and complex work is from car parts.  Corbett has a background in the business of car parts recycling and off-road racing; he started sculpting with car parts in 1999.  He uses the car parts in their original forms without bending them; the works are assemblage based on the inherent nature of the found materials.

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