Plastic Fantastic?

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    Vasa Velizar Mihich (American, born Yugoslavia, 1933). Untitled, 1975. Lucite columns on Formica-covered bases. National Endowment for the Arts grant and matching Academy Volunteers Fund and partial donation by the artist,1975 (4317.1a-j)

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    Chris Jordan (American, b. 1963). 'CF10257,' 2012. Digital print of unaltered stomach contents of a Laysan albatross fledgling, Midway Island. Courtesy of the artist.

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    Dianna Cohen (American, b. 1965). 'Nonstop,' 2005. Plastic bags and thread on linen. Courtesy of the artist.

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    Swaantje Güntzel (German, b. 1972). '15FXZ,' 2015. Thread, linen. Courtesy of the artist.

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February 03, 2016 - October 02, 2016
Spalding House

Exhibition Overview

We produce more than 300 million tons of plastic a year—and in the U.S. alone, 33.6 million tons of it is discarded. Made from chemical compounds called polymers, plastic has shaped and defined humanity, for good and bad. The evolution of plastics in our culture has an interesting history. This lightweight, inexpensive, and durable material was first invented well over 100 years ago. Use of plastic exploded during World War 2 and today, it literally covers the globe. The amazing durability of plastic also means that it doesn’t just go away when you throw it away, it can persist in landfills and in our oceans for centuries. Plastic Fantastic? looks at the scientific advancements and uses we owe to plastic as well as its effect on global culture and the environment through the works of five contemporary artists.

Plastic can be used to create durable and long-lasting parts for spaceships, or single-use disposable items like water bottles and grocery bags. It can also be utilized to create works of art and inspire conversation about appropriate uses for this prolific material. On display will be works from the museum collection by such artists and designers as Takashi Murakami and Charles and Ray Eames. Also on view will be works by artists that address issues that arise from the production and use of plastic. Collages by Los Angeles–based artist Dianna Cohen speak to a throwaway culture born out of the ubiquity and proliferation of plastics. Sculptural installations by New York–based artists Aurora Robson and Maika‘i Tubbs make references to a new plastic-driven world formed and created with the man-made material. The textile work of German artist Swaantje Güntzel reveals the global reach of plastic pollution through visual mapping. And a photography series by Seattle-based Chris Jordan illustrates the sober reality of what plastic pollution ultimately does to living creatures.

Plastic Fantastic? includes an interactive space that invites viewers to consider the exhibition and the pros and cons of plastic, as well as to make art—visitors can construct assemblages of plastic debris fragments, which were all collected from local beaches on Oahu. These individual plastic pieces created by community members and students will be used to create a large public art installation to be unveiled in September 2016.

More: Check out stories and events related to the exhibition on the museum blog.

Lead Presenting Partner

Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation, founded by Jack and Kim Johnson to support environmental, art, and music education. 

Presenting Corporate Sponsor

Hawaiian Electric, supporting STEM education, the arts and the environment in Hawaiʻi. 

Funders + Partners

This project was also funded by the Louis L. Borick Foundation and developed in partnership with the Kōkua Hawai‘i Foundation, Sustainable Coastlines Hawai‘i, the Surfrider Foundation O‘ahu Chapter, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debris Program.


Media sponsor