For the upcoming Spring/Break Art Show, part of New York’s Armory Arts Week, Dustin Yellin is collaborating with artist collective the Bazaar Teens on an eight painting series entitled "The Riches of God’s Love unto the Vessels of Mercy."
And by paintings, we mean brown canvases covered in $10,000 worth of shredded bills.
Yup, Yellin is spearheading a series of artworks that literally destroy an anonymous donor’s donation and spew the carnage all over poop-brown canvases. And, we have to say, we're on board. But we should probably add, the artworks are each priced at $10,000 and all proceeds from the sale will go toward the creation of eight grants for high school seniors interested in art.
The sensational artwork was inspired in part by the fair's theme of "Transaction." It was also inspired by a serious time crunch. "I'd been asked to do the show," Yellin explained in an interview with The Huffington Post, "but I had so much stuff cooking so we didn't start thinking about it until fairly close to the deadline. I'd been in talks with our donor and he really wanted to help. Everything was in agreement except for what we were going to do. When it came time to decide with such limited time available, we began to worry -- what's the point in having to rush to put on a fairly mediocre art show, where everything is hung at eye level and looks like everything else?"
And then the idea struck. Instead of spending money to produce average artworks that would enter the contemporary art marketplace, was there a better way to use the donation? Yellin resolved to take the allotted cash, in the forms of twenties, fifties and one hundred-dollar bills, and shred the loot in a wood chipper. He then used tweezers to apply the massacred dough to emulsion-covered canvasses.
"We were aware of the problematics of destroying money. There was a lot of debate and fight over it. Eventually we decided to go ahead with it," he said. In more lofty terms:
"The only way that we could do it was to redistribute the money. We wouldn't make money at the art fair. We would basically increase the value of the money that we did have by valorizing the artist's touch and then redistribute whatever mythical value is attached to this stupid, wasteful, destructive act."
Yellin is the first to affirm the potential critiques lodged against the project. Aside from dubbing the act "stupid" and "wasteful," he also remarked, "they look like shit" and "it's totally a stunt." But in some bizarre way, this only makes the strange and charitable act all the more engrossing. "We wanted the sensational aspect of the act to speak to something beyond the frame and have it engage in a different dialogue," Yellin explained. "Could the intention be beautiful? Its other value, not its aesthetic value."
If the works sell, Yellin will have used the strange alchemy of art to increase the value of money simply by destroying it. And even if they don't, he argues it's no different from any art fair piece remaining in stock. "Let's say we invested $10,000 and we made some neon that said, 'Holding Hands Together Before The Night Is Over' and that doesn't sell. I don't know why we're called into question for this wasteful aesthetic gesture in particular. If we're all going to make these artistic critiques of the economy and act within it, it's fucking stupid."
In the end, there are few negatives things you can say about Yellin's project that he wouldn't agree with already. He's just hoping you notice some beauty there as well. "It is a stunt. It's totally a stunt. But it can be other things. We always want a multiplicity of meanings and values to be attached to things. This could be a bunch of assholes doing something but it can also be good at the same time."
"The Riches of God’s Love unto the Vessels of Mercy" will be on view at the Spring/Break Art Show from March 4 through March 8, 2015.