by J Stoner Blackwell
April 2-September 6
The total amount of plastic globally was estimated at 7800 million tons in 2015. Less than 9% of plastics are recycled in the United States. In light of the Vermont legislation banning single-use plastic bags, which went into effect July 1, 2020, this exhibition repurposes existing plastic bags as artworks. The discarded plastic bag is an artifact of everyday use whose physical and metaphorical contents are presumed to have been emptied out. Yet the plastic bag’s significance as an emblem of consumer culture and environmental exploitation persist. J Stoner Blackwell calls these artworks Neveruses (never·uses). Neveruses are lumpish, androgynous objects comprised of recovered plastic bags and colored fibers such as wool yarn, silk thread, and patterned cloth. The centerpieces of this exhibition are two recent large-scale works, in which Blackwell explores new directions for their Neveruses.
Neveruses à Table (me and LP), made in 2018, features seven heavily embellished Neveruses displayed on a structure that looks like two upside down tables, drawing on Blackwell’s interest in early American design, especially Shaker furniture. Neveruses: Beyonder is an approximately 17 x 16 foot site-specific curtain-like object (2020-2021) that is composed of 100s of single use plastic bags collected prior to their ban in Vermont in the summer of 2020. Blackwell adhered the plastic bags to themselves and one another using low-level heat and then embroidered them into a contiguous network with looping, interconnected lines of acrylic yarn.
Interspersed in the space with Blackwell’s works is a selection of historic objects. This space already featured four early tall-case clocks and a large ceramic monument created by the United State Pottery Company, of Bennington, for the 1853 Crystal Palace Exposition in New York. During the process of creating Neveruses: Beyonder on site, Blackwell became interested in the formal relationships between these historic objects and their own work. We’ve decided to embrace and further explore these relationships, encouraging viewers to consider Blackwell’s work as part of a larger historic and visual/material culture continuum.
The artist wishes to thank: Elissa Auther, Lopa Banerjee, Ella Ben Hagai, Zirwat Chowdhury, An Contreras Nino, Elena Demyanenko, Erin McKenny, Keiko Narahashi, Noam Rapaport, Lucia Rosenast, Ben Taft, John Umphlett, and Jamie Franklin and the staff of the Bennington Museum for putting up with me for the three months I was regularly on site to create Neveruses: Beyonder.
This exhibition is dedicated to the memory of Richard Blackwell, Donald Gardner, SW “Tonny” Plauche, and Jean Wattigny.