I’m really into artists who make things obsessively. One example is Charles Ledray, whose recent exhibition workworkworkworkwork at the Whitney is a testament to his object mania.
I recently came across this great Art:21 video of Brooklyn-based artist Allan McCollum, who, since 1982, has been making unique objects he calls “Plaster Surrogrates.” Based on real-life commercially-produced things, he casts them from plaster molds and hand-paints them. The objects are all displayed together on a table in a uniform color, evoking connotations of tiny building blocks: atoms, legos, pixels. Some objects have stories behind them, and others are absolutely meaningless.
In the video McCollum talks about the human inability to comprehend so many permutations of a single thing, and the importance of not having duplicates. One time when it happened, he says, “I was furious, I mean I got really mad, when I realized there were some duplicates, because the whole point is that they were unique […] If one person finds one mistake, then one says oh well then we can’t trust or believe that these are unique. But if you think there’s no mistakes then you are kind of in the awe of the possibility of there being billions and billions of unique shapes, and that’s the kind of awe that I’m interested in.”
McCollum says it best: ”The artists that I like are the ones that have an idea and then really see it through. I mean… really see it through, they don’t stop and just sort of halfway do it, they do it!” I couldn’t agree more!
(See also: Tom Friedman, Brian Dettmer, Kim Rugg, a second video with McCollum, and a short article by Adam Gopnik that touches on uniqueness: “The Truth About Snowflakes" in the New Yorker)