Cardboard and water don’t mix. Inspired by Bernini’s Trevi Fountain, James Grashow wanted to create something heroic out of corrugated board. After seeing one of his cardboard works decayed when it was left outside the home of his art dealer Allan Stone, he decided to construct an intricate piece ultimately to be destroyed by the elements of nature. After building Corrugated Fountain for five years and traveling with the exhibit across the US, the installation has returned to his home state of Connecticut, and Grashow will watch as it slowly decomposes.
Grashow has worked with cardboard since childhood and created large-scale installations, including a corrugated underwater sea scene, a mob of corrugated monkeys, and replicas of cities, primarily out of paper-mache and cardboard. He feels as if cardboard mimics the human condition and the undeniable fact of mortality. “Cardboard knows it’s going to be garbage; it’s grateful to have a chance to become something,” Grashow says.
The Corrugated Fountain is now on display at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum. Like the Trevi, Grashow’s fountain has accumulated wishes, which visitors write on coins provided by the museum. Wishes ranging from the Mets winning the World Series to justice and world peace to having more money and a new husband, have been found in the fountain by Grashow. Filmmaker Olympia Stone is creating The Cardboard Bernini, a documentary chronicling Grashow’s project. A camera is placed on-sight to take footage of the fountain every half-hour.
Grashow is still unsure of his feelings toward the fountain’s slow death, but he often drives by to see its progression. “It’s thrilling and terrifying,” he says. “Everything has an end. We all disintegrate.”
Corrugated Fountain will remain outdoors at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, CT until May 12. Aldrichart.org