Federico Uribe: Plastic Reef

June 17, 2022–February 12, 2023

With his unique sense of beauty, Uribe plays with the juxtaposition between this whimsical and lively subject matter and its potentially destructive material—plastic.

Federico Uribe’s fantastical underwater environment bursts with colors and transports us to a three-dimensional oasis filled with creatures, including sea anemones, mussels, and “swimming” fish. In curious and unpredictable ways, the artist weaves together everyday plastic objects—such as used bottles, bottle caps, plastic cutlery, flip flops, and more—to recreate a marine coral reef and its interdependent life forms. With his unique sense of beauty, Uribe plays with the juxtaposition between this whimsical and lively subject matter and its potentially destructive material—plastic.

With this truly sensory experience, the artist confronts and reminds of the fragility of life in this vibrant world. Uribe invites reflection on the indiscriminate use of plastic and the disastrous impact of plastic pollution on marine ecosystems worldwide. More than ten million metric tons of plastic enters our oceans every year, and it persists in the environment for centuries. Our plastic waste is endangering all the world’s oceans, including life-sustaining coral reefs.

From a distance, Plastic Reef appears to be a colorful and beautiful underwater world. Up close, one can see the hundreds of pieces of plastic, which are carefully cut and arranged. The result is playful yet communicates a real and present threat. Uribe challenges us to reflect on Mother Nature’s pivotal presence and be inspired to give back what was taken from her: marine species and corals. “Living in a coastal city has made me very conscious and sensitive about the need to conserve marine environments and ecosystems. Plastic production is increasingly inexorable, particularly in the developing world, and it is an indicator of development,” said Uribe. The artist first created Plastic Reef as a special display at the 2019 Venice Biennale. The themes of nature’s interdependence and regeneration explored by the artist complement the concurrent exhibition Cycles of Nature: Highlights from the Collections of the HRM and Art Bridges.

Born in Bogotá, Colombia in 1962, Uribe currently lives and works in Miami. In 1996, the artist abandoned his paint brushes and canvases in favor of household objects. His artwork resists classification and emerges from intertwining everyday objects in surprising ways that maintain a formal reference to art history. Over the past decade, his artwork has been collected by and featured in multiple museums around North and South America and exhibitions in Europe and Asia.

 

Exhibitions are made possible by assistance provided by the County of Westchester.

Federico Uribe (Colombian, b. 1962). Plastic Reef, 2019. Plastic. Courtesy of the artist.