Riley works in lots of mediums: The Brooklyn exhibition contains movies, ornamental installations, mosaics and illustrations, like an enormous map of Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal, encompassing its historical past from precolonial bounty to Dutch settlers by way of the polluted Superfund web site that in 2007 examined constructive for gonorrhea. He as soon as took Henry Rollins, the punk eminence, down there, aboard the Turtle, his duplicate submarine, and spied shrimp by way of the porthole home windows. “That’s how I knew the Canal was getting cleaner,” he mentioned fortunately.
His mosaics supply one of many greatest wows of the present. Impressed by sailors’ valentines, a nautical memento historically product of shells, Riley’s are monumental and fairly lovely. Solely on shut inspection do you discover that the right, shiny seashells are interlaid with a rainbow of bottle caps, cigar suggestions, bits of mechanical pencils, and bread bag clips, all harvested from New York streets and waterfronts.
Although he’s lengthy labored with discovered objects — he was portray on, and with, rubbish in artwork faculty — not too long ago, Riley mentioned, “the environmental focus has been extra intense,” as he’s watched the shorelines breached by extra, and ever tinier, junk.
“As artists, we’re going to have to start out considering otherwise concerning the supplies that we use,” he mentioned, just a few days earlier than the exhibition opened. We have been sitting in his studio within the Brooklyn Navy Yard, a pair of feminine pigeons, Tofu and Asta, rustling in a cage close by. It’s a cleanish house, stacked with neatly bagged, color-coordinated trash. A trailer exterior was full of extra refuse.