Robert Morgan began his art career as a scavenger collecting photos, personal mementos and everyday objects from the homes of young gay men who were the victims of AIDS, alcoholism and drug abuse. These objects, regardless of their original significance, were routinely abandoned or thrown away by families that had little use for the remainders their sons’ lives. Blessed with a strong sense of curiosity and a perverse Midas touch, Morgan was able to turn those banal objects into works of art through a complex method of assemblage and adornment. Objects are wrapped, glued and nailed together – infused with religious and personal iconography – and then covered in a thick layer of polyurethane making them glisten and shine like glass.
But all that glitters is not gold. It is garbage, junk, trash, detritus, personal, anonymous and all but completely forgotten. It is bottle caps, construction netting, baby dolls and caution tape. But it glitters all the same. The show’s title, ‘All That Glitters…’ is an abbreviated misquote from Shakespeare’s original line, “All that glisters is not gold.” Morgan’s work is the result of a lifelong accumulation of tangible “quotes” – objects taken from the piles of what is left after their original lives have ended. These objects of all shapes and sizes make their way to Morgan’s studio and are reassigned meaning by the artist, assembled into the massive altar in the living room, piled in the bedroom or tacked onto a work in progress. Misquoting, re-purposing, re-inventing are the tools that drive Morgan’s creative process.
The most recent incarnation of Morgan’s accumulative process manifests itself in the form of a small army. Saints, warriors and sentries – on foot and on horse – march through the gallery and into the street towards the eager eyes and faces pressed up against the gallery’s front window. Created in conjunction with Lexington’s EcoGrant program, this exhibition and catalogue address the concept of recycling both physically and conceptually. Morgan’s work literally recycles and re-purposes trash, but more importantly, it recycles memories, experiences and stories that would have otherwise been thrown away.