Gallery Review: Texas Artist Coalition Featured Artist Robertus van der Wege

Art Institute of Dallas Professor Robertus van der Wege is this months Featured Artist for the Texas Artist Coalition currently on exhibit at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center. His sculptures are made out of found materials from bicycles and other objects that fit within his theme of environmentalism and recycling. After traveling around the world, van der Wege recognized that most individuals still use the bicycle as their main mode of transportation, the exception being, here in the United States. Consumer driven culture in American society has created a nation of people who throw away these objects, while in other countries, bicycles are still highly valued and sought after to get around their city.

This idea of recycling the bicycle and using it for sculpture is played out through all of the pieces included in this particular exhibit. Each sculpture in one way or another reflects upon this concern with US environmental conservation procedures and its consumer culture. The central sculpture to the exhibit, Bike 5, is a unicycle with a bonsai tree, precariously positioned where one would normally find the seat. The delicate nature of the plant compared to the structural quality of the wheel and pedals contrast one another nicely, creating the sense that a balance between industrial society and the natural environment is possible. But at the same time, this process of finding balance can be a scary ride and a can lead to complex routes in order to maintain that balance.

Robertus van der Wege: Five Girls Playing, 2009. Steel and bicycle parts at Fort Worth Community Arts CenterThe second most intriguing piece in this exhibit is entitled Five Girls Playing, which consists of five wheels and five seats put together in a circular formation painted a bright pink. The sculpture functions and can move in a circle, if pushed. Van der Wege commented on the piece saying that he meant for it to be a reflection on childhood and that everyone should enjoy their youth, while they still can. The purpose for creating the circular formation was that childhood should go in circles and never be too serious. But how does this fit in with his overarching theme of environmentalism? In the US, bicycles are most commonly associated with childhood memories. As we all begin to age, our bikes become obsolete and we move on to bigger and better things, at least that’s what we believe we move on to by getting cars. These bicycles that he uses are disregarded memories of the past, that he has taken and given new life to in the form of sculpture. Now the question remains, what should the public do to change our thinking and practices towards our environment and disregarded objects?

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