Featuring 30 new collage pieces by Austen Zombres, they highlight aspects of our present day consumerism from the lens of ‘fast discardable America’. For Zombres, “this paper trail leads to art.”
“I really admire the organization and discipline I see in Japanese traditions,” Zombres told SF Chronicle in 2020 pre-pandemic. “Like the way a kimono is cut, how there’s no fabric wasted. That’s something you see in a lot of Japanese and Native American traditions — you use the whole animal, all of the fabric, you know? I wish I had more of that discipline.” The work uses a laser focus that others may not be able to really grasp in their day to day lives.
Through three seemingly simple self-imposed guidelines, Zombres has formulated a conscientious structure for all of his collage work. The first being, all cardboard and paper used must have no practical use to make it into his work. The second, materials used must be discarded or soon to be. And third, no paint, pen or pencil will appear in any final piece of art. This steadfast approach to his practice has allowed for Zombres to cultivate a highly meticulous and sustainable work ethic and technique. His precision and attention to detail is so hyper-focused that viewers often find it difficult to believe that each and every one of his pieces is solely hand-cut and marked.
Zombres began painting and drawing as a teenager in Glen Ellen, but his recycled collages originated from necessity while he was living on a remote mountain top in Sonoma. “A sushi restaurant in Wine Country wanted me to do a bunch of pieces for their restaurant, but I couldn’t get into town to buy art supplies,” he recalls to SF Chronicle. “So I decided I didn’t need paint anymore. I used the paper waste and cardboard that we had on the property and created a series of bento box sushi pieces out of paper. They paid me $1,300, and with that I moved to San Francisco.” Zombres says his work isn’t necessarily driven by environmental concerns, but he knows his collages originate from a culture of excess and waste. He’s not holding his breath, but he understands that his work may have an end point if there’s a cultural shift in consumption.
“I know at some point, if we ever become forward-thinking people, what I do won’t be possible,” he says. “It’ll be a time capsule of what used to happen.” In All Over Again, Zombres has created a series of images common to urban areas; most specifically, San Francisco. In repeating images such as cigarette butts, juice boxes, tents, Japanese maki, pharmaceutical pills and iconic sneakers laid clearly on pure white space, Zombres implores his audience to question the ways in which we as a society quickly consume and discard. Despite touching on difficult subjects, Zombres’ work is alluringly crafted; reminding his audience that even in waste and hardships, there is beauty to be found.
// “All Over Again” will be on view from May 8 – 29, 2021. Opening Reception: Saturday, May 8, 11 AM-7 PM, 808 Sutter Street, Nob Hill; glassrice.com. Feature photo courtesy of Glass Rice.