Bricolage, French for fiddling or tinkering, has come to mean "the creative and resourceful use of whatever materials are at hand (regardless of their original purpose)," according to Wikipedia; it's today's dominant esthetic. Duchamp's readymades ("unimproved" urinals, snow shovels, bottle racks) and the Surrealists' found objects, albeit subjectively improved, are models for today's subversive yet utopian bricoleurs.
On view at California College of the Arts during its current Craft Forward symposium is Manufractured: Forward (i.e., manufacturing and fracturing, reconciled in art), the Bay Area iteration of a 2008 Portland Museum of Contemporary Craft show. Curators Steven Skov Holt and Mara Holt Skov: "Artists, craftspeople, and designers ... around the world are gathering familiar mass-produced goods as their raw materials ... to create an entirely new class of [hybrid] objects." The everyday materials employed by Harriete Estel Berman, Mitra Fabian, Liz Hickok, Andy Diaz Hope, Emiko Oye, Michele Pred, Laurel Roth, and Thomas Wold include "recycled tin cans and binder clips; adhesive tape and gel capsules; wooden cabinets and rulers; pocket knives and pantyliners; LEGO® and Jell-O®." Environmental concerns have given recycling a new urgency, but these artists evince traditional values and virtues: "a deep and abiding sense of materiality, a sincere claim to the heritage of making, and an exuberant display of hand/mind virtuosity."
Back to that eclectic ingredients list. Berman uses recycled tin cans to comment on the wasteful great American lawn in her metal-shard turf piece. Fabian links binder clips into wall-mounted chains that suggest DNA strands, calligraphy, and snowy mountainscapes, and constructs faux frosted-glass vessels from tape. Hope encapsulates snippets of photo imagery medicinal gel capsules (or glass substitutes), satirizing our medication and video-game cultures. Wold combines vintage wooden cabinets, night lights, and shag rugs in his Seventies-homage assemblages, while Berman uses rulers to indict conformist teaching protocols. Pred arranges pocket knives, matchbooks, and other dangerous objects confiscated by TSA for arrays in the forms of Swiss crosses, American flags, and Valentine hearts. Roth uses womanly skills to comment wryly on feminine realities like PMS in her red-splatter quilt with its sanitary pads embroidered "fuck." Oye uses LEGO blocks, sterling silver, wire, and rope for her art-inspired jewelry. Hickok uses Jell-O, and its permanent substitute, gel wax, for her "jiggly" temblor-themed sculptures, photos, and videos. Artists' reception Wednesday, March 30, 5:30-7:30 pm. Closing reception: Friday, April 1, 3-4 pm. Catalog available. Manufractured: Forward runs through April 1 at California College of the Arts (Oliver Art Center, 5212 Broadway, Oakland), 510-839-2787 or CCA.edu