Allan McCollum: “Lost Objects” & “Natural Copies”

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Episode #137: Filmed in his Brooklyn studio, artist Allan McCollum discusses two projects utilizing dinosaur fossils—”Lost Objects” (begun 1991) and “Natural Copies (begun 1994)—and his interest in how both scientific and local communities define the historical value of objects.

Applying strategies of mass production to hand-made objects, Allan McCollum’s labor-intensive practice questions the intrinsic value of the unique work of art. McCollum’s installations—fields of vast numbers of small-scale works, systematically arranged—are the product of many tiny gestures, built up over time. Viewing his work often produces a sublime effect as one slowly realizes that the dizzying array of thousands of identical-looking shapes is, in fact, comprised of subtly different, distinct things. Engaging assistants, scientists, and local craftspeople in his process, McCollum embraces a collaborative and democratic form of creativity.

Allan McCollum is featured in the Season 5 (2009) episode Systems of the Art in the Twenty-First Century television series on PBS. Watch full episodes online for free via PBS Video or Hulu, as a paid download via iTunes (link opens application), or as part of a Netflix streaming subscription.

CREDITS | Producer: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Interview: Wesley Miller. Camera: Joel Shapiro. Sound: Tom Bergin. Editor: Mary Ann Toman. Artwork Courtesy: Allan McCollum. Special Thanks: Vera Alemani, Celina Paiz, Marcie Paper & Adele Röder. Video: © 2011, Art21, Inc. All rights reserved.

This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

Allan McCollum. "Lost Objects", 1991. Enamel on glass fiber-reinforced concrete, dimensions variable. Installation view at John Weber Gallery, New York. Produced in collaboration with the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh. Photo by Fred Scruton. © Allan McCollum. Courtesy the artist.

Allan McCollum. Lost Objects, 1991. Enamel on glass fiber-reinforced concrete, dimensions variable. Installation view at John Weber Gallery, New York. Produced in collaboration with the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh. Photo by Fred Scruton. © Allan McCollum. Courtesy the artist.

Allan McCollum. "Natural Copies from the Coal Mines of Central Utah," 1994–1995. Enamel paint on solid-cast polymer-enhanced Hydrocal, 22 x 26 x 20 inches each. Produced in collaboration with the College of Eastern Utah Prehistoric Museum, Price, Utah. © Allan McCollum. Courtesy the artist.

Allan McCollum. Natural Copies from the Coal Mines of Central Utah, 1994–1995. Enamel paint on solid-cast polymer-enhanced Hydrocal, 22 x 26 x 20 inches each. Produced in collaboration with the College of Eastern Utah Prehistoric Museum, Price, Utah. © Allan McCollum. Courtesy the artist.

Allan McCollum. "Natural Copies from the Coal Mines of Central Utah," 1994–1995. Installation view at John Weber Gallery, New York. Enamel paint on cast polymer-enhanced Hydrocal, variable dimensions. Produced in collaboration with the College of Eastern Utah Prehistoric Museum, Price, Utah. Photo by Fred Scruton. © Allan McCollum. Courtesy the artist.

Allan McCollum. Natural Copies from the Coal Mines of Central Utah, 1994–1995. Installation view at John Weber Gallery, New York. Enamel paint on cast polymer-enhanced Hydrocal, variable dimensions. Produced in collaboration with the College of Eastern Utah Prehistoric Museum, Price, Utah. Photo by Fred Scruton. © Allan McCollum. Courtesy the artist.

Contributor
Jonathan Munar is the Director of Digital Media and Strategy at Art21, overseeing the organization's overall digital, Web, and social media presences. He edits and contributes to Art21's "Art 2.1" column.
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