Objects to be Destroyed

Judith Bear Isroff Gallery
February 29, 2020 - August 9, 2020

In 1932, Man Ray cut out the eye in a photograph and attached it to the swinging pendulum of a metronome. In doing so, the artist transformed a device used by musicians to mark time into something new and different. Disconnected from its usual function, the metronome became a sculpture, which Man Ray dubbed Object to be Destroyed. (He changed the name of later versions of the work to Indestructible Object after a group of art students interpreted the title literally and attacked the sculpture in 1957.)

Borrowing its title from Man Ray’s original name for his sculpture, Objects to be Destroyed is full of everyday items, including glass bottles, clocks, rocks, umbrellas and books. The artists in this exhibition incorporate found man-made products or natural materials into their sculptures, assemblages and photographs. This practice dates to the early 1910s, when artists such as Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp began displaying unexpected objects in exhibitions as a way to draw attention to the items’ physical and aesthetic characteristics. They also encouraged viewers to reconsider the artistic process as an intellectual rather than a purely technique-driven pursuit.

Man Ray and Duchamp’s innovations have had lasting consequences, influencing artists working throughout the 20th century to today. The artists of Objects to be Destroyed invite visitors to consider commonplace items in a new and unexpected way. In a sense, the artists destroy the objects they select as materials by preventing them from fulfilling their original use, yet, at the same time, they imbue them with a new existence as works of art.

Objects to be Destroyed is organized by the Akron Art Museum and supported by funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Ohio Arts Council.