A literal refreshment of materials; collected and reconstructed. John Preus's work in Chicago is based on deconstructing old schoolrooms, the all too familiar Formica wood and metal, from chairs and desks. Preus even utilizes sheetrock and old construction material from the schools themselves. Preus then creates both sculptures and sculptural elements through these composite textiles. Through his sound craftsmanship and unique aesthetic, new breath is released and nostalgia remains, a generational scarred material shining light onto a once relative experience.
Working with both sculptures and panels, Preus focuses towards abstraction. In equal parts Minimalism and Cubism, some cases very literally as seen below, Preus expands his fragmented mediums into a compounded whole. Each scrap linking to the other with strict delineations, similar to minimalist color blocks, however the materials' unique texture, wear, and coloring produce their own singular painterly expression. Effortlessly fused together and painstakingly sanded to be entirely flush, the materials become whole again creating an entirely new and different object.
His reuse of materials is readily seen in his larger installations as well, even the use of whole pieces such as metal chairs, which he re-purposes into a unworldly swing (above). The Relative Appetite of Hungry Ghosts, a solo exhibition in Chicago, typifies the understanding Preus is attempting to convey.
The swing as an iconic staple on a playground is a constant, located in almost every school yard nationwide, imparting a message of released innocence and a kind of freedom. The majority of Preus's materials for the pieces were collected from 49 Chicago public schools that were closed in 2013, displacing 12,000 children from multiple neighborhoods. The wood, metal, and infrastructure Preus uses to create the piece highlights not only normal wear and tear, but pencil markings, sticker residue, carved initials, and old gum. By creating a disembodied likeness of a swing with an added nod to its previous inhabitants, Preus is more than mentioning the political injustices of its educational demise. Utilizing his unique creativity, Preus attempts to untangle a social mess, gracefully creating a conversation about loss and the purpose in this further revitalization of these materials.