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Francisco Sobrino

Plastic: Art in an Era of Material Innovation


In the mid-twentieth century plastic was viewed as a material of infinite possibility. Artists began incorporating plastic into their work as technological and commercial development of the material flourished. Whether encouraged by industry, responding to a society seduced by synthetics, or excited by the inherent qualities of these new materials, artist created myriad works that showcased plastic’s diverse, expressive, and complex qualities. An object in plastic could take any form: thin, malleable plastics could be stitched together or spliced, hard plastics could be glued, colored, melted, or molded, and plastic objects could even be appropriated as signifiers of an increasingly superficial and materialistic society.


Plastic: Art in an Era of Material Innovation presents a selection of more than thirty works drawn from the Neuberger Museum of Art’s permanent collection. Spanning the dominant art movements of the mid-twentieth century, this exhibition demonstrates the unique versatility, and dominance of plastic in art at its apex. Art made from plastic allowed for the possibility of creating unprecedented forms, and pushed the synthetic medium beyond material mimicry toward its status as the material of modernity.


Plastic: Art in an Era of Material Innovation is organized by the Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, curated by Grace Converse, a Neuberger Curatorial Fellow and graduate student in the Purchase College MA Program in Art History, Criticism, and Theory, and is overseen by Patrice Giasson, the Alex Gordon Associate Curator of the Art of the Americas.