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Clare Graham’s Trash Treasures At JF Chen

Clare Graham's Trash Treasures At JF Chen 1

I collected stuffed animals as a kid. I had lots of Mickey Mouses, a glow in the dark rabbit I called “Magic Glow,” a purple mouse who smelled like gumdrops, and a teddy bear–named Bear Bear–that a family dog had mauled causing my mother crocheted him a hat to hide any of his unsightly scars. I still have a lot of those stuffed animals, some of which are hanging out in my apartment on an orange fake leather chair. I recently added a new addition: a bound, bondage-esque Snoopy that looks like a giant white pill or alien egg.

The addition is wrapped in what is assumed to be tightly clasped Saran Wrap and then covered in a netting. He seems to have lost a fight with a big spider and you feel like you can hear his Snoopy whines, begging to be released from his prison. Unfortunately for him, his prison is a work of art: he is a boulder created by local artist Clare Graham. Clare’s work is currently on display at JF Chen and is a fascinating exploration of disposable items through art. He uses abandoned stuffed animals, soda can tops, discarded buttons, scrabble pieces, teddy bear eyes, and anything else that we leave behind to make incredible furniture art pieces. Clare is a master of turning trash treasure.

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There are a few movements at his JF show, Rapt: his soda can top furniture, his stuffed animal work, his detritus cabinets, and button mirrors. The soda can furniture is what makes the bulk of the show and is exactly what you think it would be: furniture items made out of soda can tops. He’s somehow woven them into tables and chairs and daybeds and giant plants that span over ten feet long. They have a coolness to them, a resonating chill likely carried over from the drink they once contained. They appear impractical but, in contacting them, you realize the medium could almost massage in that its many grooves require you to settle in to the right spot.

His stuffed animal works are the most fascinating at Rapt since you mostly encounter them by way of giant spindles of bound toys as they look like white moss covered Joshua Trees. These have the most variety in form–they come in small boulders, big towers, a spherical light, a caged rod–and are fascinating since you aren’t quite sure what exactly the object is composed of. Perhaps one of the most revealing pieces are the caged rods as you can obviously see thousands of little teddy bear faces poking out of it, perhaps whispering for help. Sorry, little friends: to release you from that beautiful prison of yours would take out all the fun.

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Graham’s cabinets and mirrors go hand in and and are the least odd in construction. The cabinets are classic, large structures based on geometric, square patterns. The resources he uses to compose them are what makes the difference: there’s a silly Scrabble cabinet, a cabinet made with a blue teddy bear eye pattern, a cabinet made with a brown teddy bear eye pattern, and a cabinet that rearranges a painting into a puzzle. These are perhaps the most functional pieces because they are so large and were all filled with many bear boulders for you to discover. Some even held his button mirrors, these scaly looking glasses that are meditations on the circular form. They feature a repeating button used over and over and over again that makes you wonder where exactly he found so many of the same form.

Rapt is a fascinating show as it collides together American folk ephemera with ingenious art practices. It fits perfectly into JF Chen’s furniture Garden of Eden as it is placed amongst other artists work who have repurposed found items. It’s no surprised that the work of Tanya Aguiñiga‘s rope necklaces and rope bracelets are within eyeshot of the show. You can catch Rapt through July 18 and, if you can’t make it to the show, his work is being added to Chen’s collection: they will always be there, until they’ve been purchased up.

If you stop by and see the show, you should seriously consider picking up one of Clare’s boulders: they’re only fifty dollars and, considering the effort placed into it, they are the most affordable art pieces that we’ve ever encountered in Los Angeles. We wish we could have bought an entire basket full! Get more information on the show here. JF Chen is located at 941 N Highland. Use the Romaine door to enter, buzzing in and then asking to see the Clare Graham show. There are lots of sights to see here, too.

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