FOUND [fall 2016]: Robert Larson’s abstracted cigarette paraphernalia, Longhui Zhang’s salvaged luggage pieces, and Benjamin Terry’s scrapped wood wall works. [Scroll down for gallery.] Slide Getting lost and being found are common experiences when making art. As artists, we roam into places unknown by accident or by design. Either way, our getting lost is an act of faith and courage. From the onset one has to believe there is something legitimate to be found through the process of creating, because one will undoubtedly wander into uncharted wilderness. Artists continually leap from the proverbial cliff hoping that as we plummet from our perch, far below is a branch or a ledge large enough and strong enough to catch our fall.

The exhibition curator has taken her own leap of faith assembling what appears on first glance three very different artists. Yet the organizing principle in FOUND is to showcase artists who discover, reimagine, or manufacture their own materials.

Longhui Zhang ferrets out all kinds of materials to use as the components for his art: disused suitcases, travel identification tags, abandoned clothing, and luggage straps. Originally from China, Zhang’s art uses the immigrant or the tourist as his lodestar. By repurposing the paraphernalia associated with travel Zhang allows us to reflect and imagine who is traveling, why they are moving their belongings and at what cost—emotional and otherwise. His iconic installations are evocative and sentimental monuments devised to consider the movement of people and the inevitable clashing of cultures.

Ben Terry doesn’t “find” his art supplies, but rather fabricates his own materials by jigsaw-cutting hundreds of small plywood puzzle pieces to craft his art. His lo-fi aesthetic revels in the trashiness of its facture. With a clever sense of humor and an educated eye for color Terry patches together his rough-hewn wood fragments into objects wavering between the disciplines of sculpture and painting. There is an insouciant attitude to his work that provides an interesting allure; it’s joyfully formal, while equally punkish in its disdain for refinement. His art sits on the wall like a conversation starter placed by a designer who happens to be a messy kindergartner.

The only artist not residing in Texas, Robert Larson, adopts a literal meandering as his ethos. Essentially, he goes on urban walkabouts gathering and recycling all kinds of rubbish in order to make his collage and tiled paintings. Best known for his use of cigarette packaging, Larson creates grids of repeated images, which harken back to Warhol’s commercial imagery. Highly attuned to painterly concepts such as shape, value and pattern Larson grafts his democratically familiar materials into elegant arrangements transcending their humble origins as discarded trash. The subtleties he provokes from his found materials give his art a taut visual impact.

For Zhang, Terry, and Larson the act of finding is a means to gather or fashion the components for their art. Yet, like Rebecca Solnit suggests in her book A Field Guide to Getting Lost, being lost and finding something is also a process. Wandering is connected with wondering, and wonder is a driving force in making art. To create something is to find something—and like these three artists, offering it back to the world is a gift.
– Matthew Bourbon, September 2016 LOST & FOUND “Certainly for artists of all stripes, the unknown, the idea or the form or the tale that has not yet arrived, is what must be found. It is the job of artists to open doors and invite in prophesies, the unknown, the unfamiliar; it’s where their work comes from, although its arrival signals the beginning of the long disciplined process of making it their own.” – Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost Matthew Bourbon is an Artist, Writer and Associate Professor of Art in the College of Visual Arts and Design at the University of North Texas. He regularly wanders and gets lost too.