Found object art has a long, rich and deep history. It’s arguably the oldest form of art we have, dating back to when ancient humans found simple instruments or pieces of nature and turned them into things of symbolic importance. The idea, at its heart, is about using what you find, not what you buy. It’s about making things slightly more difficult. Instead of getting exactly what you need, you use what you have around you.
Found object art has always had a healthy number of people, but its recent uptick in popularity is likely due to a couple of phenomenons that are impacting young artists. The first is simply a matter of cost. Art supplies are expensive and artists, especially street artists, are often expected to work on a never ending of supply of exposure as payment, despite the costs involved. The second reason, however, seems integral to one Lisbon artist, who uses found objects to create pieces of natural beauty.
Bordalo II has gained international renown for his found object pieces, which blend the natural with what is, at its essence, trash. In creating these natural pieces from things simply lying around, Bordalo II is an excellent example of the second reason why found object art is enjoying a resurgence of popularity: it’s a way to clean up.
The idea that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure is a pervasive idea taught to us at a young age, right around the time we learn about the Three Rs (or, depending on your age and where you were raised, 4 Rs). The idea of reduce, reuse, recycle, and sometimes recover, are literally built into everyone of Bordalo II’s pieces.
Bordalo II’s work largely consists of three-dimensional animals affixed to walls, where they are painted to partially blend into their surroundings, usually a wall. Each piece combines manufactured materials, usually scrap metal, and the area around it. Through this blending of different environments, Bordalo II’s work shows us that nature and the things we derive from it aren’t as separate as we may think. These things are blended.
The combination of nature and trash brings together an aesthetic of the role of nature in the urban setting. While planning cities usually try and demarcate specific spaces as natural environments, such as Stanley Park or Central Park, these areas aren’t as separate as they seem. Nature is everywhere, from the rusting scrap metal to the many animals that live all around us. If Bordalo II’s art can show us anything, it’s that things blend together, be it art and streets, nature and urban, or simply some scrap metal made to look like a frog blending almost seamlessly into the side of a tenement building.