Turning recycled material into art arose in the early 20th-century with the “ready-made” sculptures of Duchamp, and in the last decade has become a movement that focuses on reincorporating waste into visual art. This phenomena has manifested in fine art, cinema, and design, and often provides a critical contrast to consumerist culture.
Recycled objects are integral to the art world, because – as Tony Cragg claims – you can see them as “waste […] or you can start thinking about it. Every element is magnificent, or ugly or whatever. It depends on our range of criteria “. The quality of the available materials is irrelevant compared to the quality of the gaze, whereby we are able to see beyond materiality and instead experience the beauty of its content, unexpectedly.
is a Japanese artist who creates sculptures using newspaper, a medium not only cheap but also ephemeral, often thrown into the trash just a few hours after purchase. The paper is moistened, rolled up, and glued to “create curves and contours with every single string”, explains Hitotsuyama. Her work mainly focuses on making animals that “are the same as us, as we live together on this planet […] They live ordinary everyday lives just like us“. Hitotsuyama’s intent is to transmit and make comprehensible the life of the animal kingdom.
comes from New Jersey and specializes in small steampunk sculptures, which she creates using small parts of old watches, such as gears and mechanisms. From mice to dragons to bunnies to creatures of myth, she states that all of her work is “eco-friendly and […] sensitive to the limits of our natural resources“.
alias Artur Bordalo, is a Portuguese street artist whose Big Trash Animals are widespread across the globe. He scavenges for all of the material in dumps, looking for car parts or entire cars, bicycles, tires, doors …) and is then reused to create gigantic and detailed works. He sculpts in bas-relief but also creates 3D installations depicting animals. His work reminds me of what Giulia Mattoli writes, “all this that society discards to reproduce what is most natural “.
Bordalo II, who defines himself as an activist, wants to draw attention to the environmental and ecological issues of garbage and operates to critique today’s consumer society, representing nature through the very materials which lead to its destruction.
is an Australian sculptor and illustrator, who focuses on reusing the recently obsolete CD. He define his art as “sustainable” and all of his work is made from recycled material. He has recently dedicated himself to reproducing animals with CDs. The metallic nuances of the discs take on lively, vibrant, and recognizable features.
Far from masking the recycled materials, Avery celebrates them visually, as if to make them a manifesto of his artistic ideas. His sculptures shimmer with the blues, purples, and reds characteristic of our long forgotten devices.
made his debut as a painter and director, and then took the path of sculpture, achieving fame from his works made from abandoned plastic objects. His brightly colored recycled sculptures, life-size and larger, are full of irony and positivity, for according to Bradford, “toys are a colorful version of everyday life […] playing is an essential part of creative process […] we are human and [like his sculptures, ed] we are made of many little pieces “.
is a Japanese artist deeply influenced by Shinto traditions (following the idea that all things have souls), creates her sculptures with tools, toys, and accessories made of recycled plastic. Ganz does this because “each of these elements transcends its origin to be integrated into an animal or in organic forms living and in movement “. This is perhaps why her work is marked by slender dynamism and strong vitality.
Sayaka’s creative process was influenced by her somewhat unstable childhood, which prompted her to seek a harmonious environment. She states that “process of recovery and regeneration is liberating […] building these sculptures […] reminds me that, even if there is a conflict at this time, there is also a solution in which all the pieces can coexist peacefully. Even if there are some missing pieces […], the work as a whole is beautiful and harmonious “.
is a Japanese artist and serial recycler, who creates large installations using discarded toys. His work explores the creative potential of garbage, looking for a way to “transform the extents […] that are not considered by society into special existences”.
Fuji collects toys with which he creates dinosaurs, birds, and other animals thanks to the Kaekko program, which he created in 2001, that recycles and exchanges children’s toys. A great way to combine art with fun while involving the little ones!
is an Italian artist who gained international fame thanks to his art made of trash – notably old Barbies, broken calculators, plastic bottles, and golf balls – which are transformed and take on the appearance of life-sized humans and animals. Colorful and vibrant, his works are inspired by everyday life and by the contrasts of contemporary consumerist society.
We want to point out Cyber Chimera (2014), located in the Garden of Gherardesca, which provides a modern take on the Etruscan Chimera, symbol of the Archaeological Museum of Florence. His work creates a fruitful dialogue between past and present, between classicism and modernity, between innovation and tradition .
merges the concepts of recycling and landscapes in his art. With the help of volunteers, the Danish artist-designer creates massive sculptures out of waste materials that integrate perfectly within the surrounding environment.
He has 25 recycled giants scattered all over the world, and to find them you need to organize a real treasure hunt. As Dambo explains, “the project aims to bring art out of the museum, and to show the beauty […] of the landscape that surrounds the western part of Copenhagen, at the same time giving everyone an outside-the-box, exciting experience”.
is the artist who in 2012, at Rio + 20, created three giant fish on Botafogo Beach made of recycled PET bottles. These fish were potent symbols emerging from the sand just like waste scattered on the beach, calling to mind how the sea and its fauna suffer from the harmful effects of non-recycled plastic.