Eleven artists are taking the ultimate in mundane objects, the humble button, and pushing them into the art realm with diverse uses in a Manhattan gallery this winter. They’ve played across a spectrum of art forms, from sculpture to portraits to wearable art, with messages that range from the simple to the political.
Peter “Souleo” Wright is the curator of “The Button Show” at Rush Arts Gallery, in Chelsea.
“What I tried to do with this show was look at artists who were elevating that level of craft and making polished, well-executed works that can stand next to a painting … because of the amount of detail and precision in the work,” he commented on his show at its opening.
One artist, Harlem’s Beau McCall, has used buttons to comment on his upbringing. A school desk “painted” with buttons (complete with button “gum”) is a slightly profane comment on his childhood school experience, with the ominous phrase “what goes on in class, stays in class” written on a yardstick. Another piece of McCall’s is a bottle of wine spilling out long ribbons of crimson buttons. The bottle is buttons too, each individually stitched together.
San Francisco artist Lisa Kokin is the daughter of an upholsterer. His portrait in buttons hangs on her wall, alongside portraits of activists who changed the world.
Amalia Amaki used buttons to embellish old photographs, making them somehow both eerie and domestic. Camillia Taylor used them to add colorful detail to her large, otherworldly sculptures.
The button is a simple, iconic image, so omnipresent that being forced to notice them feels odd. Just witness the menace created by simple buttons in the 2009 film Coraline. In “The Button Show,” they take center stage.
The show runs through March 12. Rush Arts Gallery is at 526 W 26th St, New York City.