By Dean Stattmann
If you’ve recently passed by Cite – the eclectic SoHo furniture store on Greene Street – you may have noticed a bright pink polka-dotted bag in the window. Rather than a special edition Lovesac, this is the work of up-and-coming Harlem-based artist Adrian Kondratowicz. Oh and it’s actually a trash bag. In 2008, with the vision of reuniting art with function, Kondratowicz created TRASH, a line of biodegradable polka-dotted trash bags. Made from a PVC liner scented to repel rodents and insects, the eye-catching eco-bags quickly got the attention of the press, giving Kondratowicz the exposure he needed to pursue more sizeable ventures. And now, on the eve of unveiling his latest project, he answers some questions about TRASH and how artists need to adapt their work for tough economic times.
What inspired TRASH?
I was originally thinking of getting some poster boards, renting out some ad space and running these posters that were pink with white polka dots and just tiling it really, really big. After finding out how expensive that was, I printed some out and started wheat pasting them, but then the thing with wheat pasting stuff illegally is that people tear it down as soon as they see it, or it just gets done over really quickly, so I needed something that was basic that would be there, but also that was not very ‘street,’ and for some reason the trash bag popped into my head and then I just imagined the whole street lined with them.
How did the project materialize?
I shopped it around all the art production companies, the non-profits and the private dealers and collectors, and everybody was very enthusiastic but nobody wanted to write me a cheque. So I wrote myself a cheque, put everything I had behind it and it worked out very well. It’s just a matter of planning and being organized. It’s like with everything else. It wasn’t really that hard to do. And also a bit of luck helps too.
How was luck involved?
Doing the right location at the right time and having the right people see it. It’s not like we promoted the thing. I have a small mailing list and the whole point of doing these things is to create awareness of some sort, whether it be for me, the project or the environment. It’s funny, like after two or three installations, everything went live on the web through the blogs and next thing you know TV stations are calling me and magazines are asking for press material and it was just like a snowball and it keeps on coming.
What was TRASH’s biggest victory?
Just getting it done, from having sketches to ordering the bags. Before I did the installations I had a series of promotional events with maybe 20 or 30 people installing the bags at various people’s homes and then actually putting them on the street. I guess that was the most exciting. That’s always the most exciting, when someone sees your work and reacts.
What do you do to give your art that mass appeal?
The way I conceptualize my stuff is I think of a concept visually and I try to integrate specific behaviors into it and obviously the most common is how do you make it so people can actually buy it or benefit from it. Why would they need this? Why should this be in their lives? I think that’s the new definition of art.
So, what’s next for you?
My next project is called “Paint by Numbers” and it involves the public and participation. It’s a project for community regeneration and it involves enrolling people and inviting people to participate in creating a community mural that’s made out of stickers and the fun part happens with me distributing the stickers. There are a couple different ways I’m going to do that, but I don’t want to get too deep into it. But it’s going to be really fun!
Photos by Dean Stattmann