Friday, February 22nd, 2013
When visitors to “Secret Garden”, the current exhibition at MACRO, The Museum of Contemporary Art in Rome, Italy come into the entry hall, the first thing they encounter is a work of art that takes up almost all the visual space in the 3-story, glass-roofed hall. Ten meters (33 feet) tall and suspended from the framework of the large overhead skylight, is a riot of color whose title is “Plastic Bags”. And a fine title that is, since the structure is made of recycled plastic shopping bags.
The artist responsible for this large work, and whose varied creations comprise the entire exhibit, is Pascale Marthine Tayou, a native of the Republic of Cameroon in west central Africa who has been exhibiting his art commercially for two decades.
According to the museum’s description of the exhibit, Tayou has long been interested in modern nomadism and is fond
of using everyday objects, particularly discards and trash, to comment on the consumerism underlying modern society.
It’s not easy for me to look at what Tayou has created and feel much of a criticism of consumerism. The colorful piece of art is rather warm and welcoming, quite like the polyethylene bags of which it is made. It should make kids smile and come closer, and if a visitor stands directly under it, he or she can look up through the work’s hollow center to where the sky caps of this grand multicolored vertical tube. It’s similar to a kaleidoscope, only with the color on the edge
rather than in the center. If “Plastic Bags” was meant as a protest, you have to say it’s a kind and gentle one — and an attractive piece of art.