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From garbage to gallery, this artist transforms discarded art crates from NYC’s streets

One man’s trash is this man’s treasure.

Rossilynne Skena Culgan
Written by
Rossilynne Skena Culgan

At this new gallery show in Tribeca, the art on the walls was once on the curb relegated to the garbage heap. 

Artist Reed Chojnacki plucked wooden art shipping crates from the rubbish around New York City’s galleries and transformed the trash into glowing neon treasures. These pieces form the artist’s “Neon Crates” series and will be on display with his “Paintings of Monoprints” collection in a show called “ARC” at the Patrick Parrish Gallery (50 Lispenard Street). The show opens Friday, September 9 and will run through Friday, October 21. 

When visiting a gallery one day, Chojnacki spotted a crate marked with Phillips auction house in London, and it sparked his intrigue. “You never know what art was transported in those crates,” he said.

He loaded the crate into his 2009 blue Ford Econoline E-250 van and brought it back to his 3,200-square foot studio in New Jersey where it became an inspiration for luminescent sculptures.  

Neon sculptures made with discarded art crates.
Photograph: Courtesy of Reed Chojnacki | A sneak peek at the show.

“I was shocked that somebody could throw something so big away,” Chojnacki said, at the same time realizing he “had a piece of neon that was rectangular, a beautiful shade of light blue” that would fit perfectly inside. That kicked off his abstract “Neon Crates” series. 

The show will offer color studies in small and large scale, along with an exploration of motion and scale, said Simone St Pierre, gallery assistant at Patrick Parrish Gallery. 

“What I want people to see or experience is my idea of color theory and scale over the course of the past three years,” Chojnacki said, adding that he also hopes visitors will be curious about the work’s use of found objects, electricity, and neon. 

This will be the first gallery show for the 25-year-old self-taught artist from New Jersey. 

“It’s not often that you see something that was literally in the garbage hanging in a gallery in Tribeca. I think that speaks volumes to a lot of art that’s being made today but also speaks volumes to this abstract sculptural series,” he said. “As much as it is literally a piece of something that somebody had considered garbage, I had spent countless hours driving and digging stuff out to find the right ones.”

“Neon Crates” opens Friday, September 9, and runs through Friday, October 21, at Patrick Parrish Gallery (50 Lispenard Street).

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