10 Clever Examples of Urban & Recycled Art

International-Car-Forest-of-the-Last-Church-Nevada-7 (Image: Ron Pinkerton, reproduced with permission)

Urban art, growing out of or concerned with city life, has been spawned from vandalism and graffiti and is now a recognised comment on the fabric of our cities and modern lifestyles. Abandoned and decaying structures or the junk items of urban society are being recycled to create new sculptures and images, often designed to shock or surprise the spectator. Here are 10 clever examples of urban, abandoned and recycled art.

1. Unregistered Cities by Jiang Pengyi


unregistered-cities-jiang-pengyi-3 (Images: Jiang Pengyi, via Blindspot Gallery)

Unregistered Cities is a series of urban art and social commentary by Jiang Pengyi. Pengyi’s crumbling miniature cities are created within the crevices of Beijing’s more traditional abandoned houses as a comment on the decline of ancient culture in favour of rapid development and urbanisation. The artist enjoys working with photography and experimenting with light, drawing the viewer’s attention to different aspects of the tiny sculpted high rises, the damage, the smoke clouds and the flames. Strikingly, despite being imaginary, some buildings within the models do appear to refer to ones which the spectator will recognise from real cityscapes within our own rapidly changing world.

2. Subverting the Coca-Cola Ban – With a Giant Coke Can


coke-can-art-2 (Images by Icy and Sot (see Facebook), reproduced with permission)

This giant coke can may look like a fun piece of urban art but it may be a rather daring example of social commentary by stencils artists, ICY and SOT from Tabriz, Iran. After President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad banned imports from Coca-Cola, IBM, Intel and Nestle, the artistic duo responded by decorating a large storage tank on a hill overlooking Tabriz. Keen skateboarders, ICY (born in 1985) and SOT (born in 1991) claimed that painting the giant abandoned container was to draw attention to the environmental issue of empty coke cans littering almost everywhere. The young brothers are now based in Brooklyn, New York. They have held exhibitions and created pieces of outdoor art in many locations around the globe, including Paris, San Francisco and Amsterdam.

3. Recycled Art: Britain’s Iconic Red Telephone Boxes

recycled-art (Images: Steve Fareham, cc-sa-3.0sharkbaitDon Swanson; cc-nc-sa-3.0)

Britain’s traditional red telephone boxes began with the K2, designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (1880- 1960) in the 1920s. Born of a long line of important architects, Scott was responsible for a host of British landmarks, including the former Bankside Power Station (now home to the Tate Modern). Perhaps Scott’s blend of the Gothic tradition with modernism is what gives the iconic telephone kiosk its lasting appeal and adaptability. Decaying ‘currant red’ boxes are being refurbished to produce urban art installations or recycled to provide ATM cash machines, garden toilets, libraries, flower boxes, fish tanks and even cocktail bars!

4. The International Car Forest of the Last Church


International-Car-Forest-of-the-Last-Church-Nevada-8 (All images by Ron Pinkerton, reproduced with permission)

The International Car Forest of the Last Church is an art installation near Goldfield, Nevada. Around 40 old vehicles have been recycled to create this eerie scene of cars, buses and trucks which appear to have rained down in to the desert sand. Graffiti and solar lighting add to the alien-invasion feel of these planted, placed and stacked hunks of metal. The project allegedly began in the early 2000s when Michael Rippie began burying the nose end of cars on his land in order to gain a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. The roadside curiosity inspired artist Chad Sorg, who began working alongside Rippie in 2011. As well as attracting other artists, the car forest has hosted live bands and is apparently free to view at all times.



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