Alejandro Durán: Washed Up

In support of this year’s New Works Photography Fellowship Award Exhibition and to share the work of this year’s photographers with the online community, En Foco partners with juror Michael Mazzeo to highlight their work in a series of blog posts. For the full exhibition experience in book format, view a sample of the exhibition catalog.

Blog post 2 of 5.

© Alejandro Durán, Amanecer, Washed Up series, 2011

Alejandro Durán’s installations alternately cast the artist as environmental activist and compulsive prankster. By populating pristine coastal environments with color-coordinated plastic detritus, he undermines the genre of landscape photography to expose our careless consumption of synthetic products and the fossil fuels from which they are derived.  His chosen materials are the hoards of discarded bottles, containers, and other plastic objects that have found their way into rivers and oceans around the world, eventually, and quite remarkably, washing up on the shores of Sian Ka’an, Mexico’s largest federally-protected reserve. Situated on the eastern side of the Yucatan Peninsula in the state of Quintana Roo, it is one of only 211 natural properties on the UNESCO World Heritage List noted for its “outstanding universal value.” The reserve is home countless species of flora and fauna, one of the world’s largest barrier reefs, and is one of 23 Mayan sites.

© Alejandro Durán, Brotes, Washed Up series, 2011

Washed Up is Durán’s epic attempt to bring attention to the ever increasing amount of waste produced around the world. In the tradition of Andy Goldsworthy and Robert Smithson, he is both interventionist and advocate. In taking inventory of his harvest of refuse, the artist groups items by size, shape, and color before transporting them to his chosen locations. When possible, Durán notes the country of origin and now claims that he has thus far documented waste from 45 countries on 6 continents. With his carefully sorted and precisely arranged flotsam and jetsam, he creates beguiling, site-specific sculptures, in which the foreign objects appear as an evolutionary outgrowth in a new world order.  As an accompaniment to these grand, conceptual works, there are individual cans and bottles from distant countries, which the artist photographs straightforwardly in situ.

© Alejandro Durán, Fruta Negra, Washed Up series, 2010

Rather than assuming a didactic stance, Durán has taken a more covert approach to raise awareness of the impending deluge. His photographs amuse and entertain while pragmatically attending to the larger issues: our stewardship of the planet and the consequences of convenience.

–Michael Mazzeo, Guest Juror New Works #15

© Alejandro Durán, Derrame, Washed Up series, 2010
© Alejandro Durán, Mar, Washed Up series, 2010
© Alejandro Durán, Charco, Washed Up series, 2010
© Alejandro Durán, Espuma, Washed Up series, 2011
© Alejandro Durán, Sueño de Niña, Washed Up series, 2010
© Alejandro Durán, Riachuelo, Washed Up series, 2010
© Alejandro Durán, Nubes, Washed Up series, 2011

Alejandro Durán is the recipient of En Foco’s New Works Photography Fellowship Awards, an annual program selecting three or more U.S. based photographers of Latino, African or Asian heritage, and Native Peoples of the Americas and Pacific, through a national call for entries. The New Works program helps artists to create or complete an in-depth photographic series exploring themes of their choice, and provides the infrastructure needed for national visibility and a professional exhibition of their new work in the New York area. More about him at his En Foco Photographers page and his website

Alejandro’s work is on view as part of New Works #15, at Calumet Photographic in Manhattan, through June 23, 2012. Please join us Thursday, June 14, 6-8 pm for the opening reception and Saturday, June 16, 2-3:30 pm for the artist talk.

Michael Mazzeo is a gallerist, educator and photographer based in New York City. He serves on the faculties of the School of Visual Arts, the International Center of Photography, New Jersey City University, and has been a guest lecturer at other prestigious institutions. He has been a featured portfolio reviewer at Fotofest, Review Santa Fe, Photolucida, Critical Mass, FotoWeek DC, The Center of Photography at Woodstock, ICP, ASMP, SPE, powerHouse Books, and Atlanta Celebrates Photography.

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