Say hello to Josh Blackwell. A southern gentleman who gives the banal plastic bag – an item derided as “useless” or “wasteful” – a second life as artwork. Fused shut and embroidered with colorful yarn, the bags are transformed into meditations on craft and consumption.
I visited Blackwell at his Bushwick studio where we sat and talked about the moral implications of the plastic bag, knitting,and Taos, New Mexico. Displayed on the walls of his studio were his Plastic Baskets, thoughtfully placed in a delicate manner. Trained as a painter, Josh began working with plastic bags six years ago and has a genuine enthusiasm and passion for his art that speaks loudly.
The idea of the “imperfect” is something that I found most interesting about his collection of work. Josh calls upon design elements influenced largely by Turkish rugs (kilims) and classic techniques of basket weaving- a primordial vessel that has long since been replaced by the ever present plastic bag. He shared with me how throughout Turkish history rugs were made with purposeful design flaws because it is believed within Muslim culture, only Allah can create something without imperfections. Maybe this is why Blackwell’s works are so beautiful– because within the imperfections there is a sense of humanity. The work is playful, yet humbly demands respect in its imperfect perfection.
Josh is currently preparing for two upcoming shows, one in California at the Riverside Art Museum and the other in Paris at the John Tevis Gallery. He has a book out entitled, Plastic Bag as Humble Present, a smart collection with front and back views of each of his Plastic Baskets that ends with this thoughtful quote from the Swiss author Robert Walser, “…but the wonderful image of the humble present became a feeling which overpowered all others. The future paled and the past dissolved. I glowed and flowered myself in the glowing, flowering present.”
I can say with out a doubt though, that it is Blackwell’s beautifully deformed weavings that make for an object that is flawlessly satisfying. Keep your eye on Josh through his website HERE– he rules.