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Unexpected Surfaces

April 16–August 16, 2021

Works of art made on unexpected materials, like postage stamps, newspaper, and plants, can produce curious and beautiful visual effects. Sometimes an artist uses uncommon elements to provide a playful take on what they create, challenging the definition of art. At other times, the choice of surfaces provokes sober commentary on race, gender, and materialism.

This installation considers an overlooked component of prints, drawings, and photographs—the support or base layer—juxtaposing works from the collection that are rarely seen together.

Material Effects

Artists can achieve distinct visual effects—like shape, texture, color, luster, and transparency—by working on unorthodox materials. Silk provides a shine not possible with matte paper. Plastic also has a reflective quality. Materials typically discarded can be transformed into a base for a collage. Traditional surfaces can also be manipulated to become a work of art with no additional media applied.

Everyday Materials

Many artists adapt familiar paper and packaging products for use as a support. While they sometimes use these materials because they are readily available, many choose to work with found objects, elevating commonplace things to the realm of fine art.

Main Building


Theresa A. Cunningham, Margaret R. Mainwaring Curatorial Fellow

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