The first time I met Brooklyn artist Jason Rosenberg, I brought him a present. It was nothing fancy. Earlier that day, I’d gone to the doctor and left with a prescription tucked inside a tiny plastic pharmaceutical bag, printed with a picture of a pill and the name of a generic medication. Lest my gift-giving skills be called into question, I should explain that I was headed that night to Kiosk, the New York shop where Rosenberg was hosting a Plastic Bag Happening: The idea was to bring a bag and either exchange it for one of the many Rosenberg has collected over the years, or to have the artist, equipped with his vintage White sewing machine, transform the bag into something totally different — a hat, a pencil case, a coin purse, a wallet. I walked away with two slim sacks from Systembolaget, Sweden’s chain of state-sponsored liquor shops; Rosenberg, when I visited him in his Greenpoint studio last month, was still holding on to the bag I’d brought, though where to find it in his heaps of pseudo-organized boxes, bins, and file folders was another story.
Interactions like this happen all the time with Rosenberg. Trash comes into his life in unexpected ways, providing him with a constant source of joy and inspiration for his work, which in recent years has taken the form of paper collages cut from the ephemera of everyday life and loosely taped into place. Rosenberg graduated from New York’s School of Visual Arts, and for a while his medium was oil paint. “But I was always making collages alongside my paintings, and eventually the immediacy of working with paper and sticking things together — even accidentally sometimes — began to excite me much more,” he says. “There’s so much more room for error. With collage, you just let it happen.”
Of course, no collage could happen without an endlessly replenished stockpile of materials, and Rosenberg is a consummate collector of things. Estate sales, flea markets, and eBay are his bread and butter, but even more, Rosenberg has trained his eye to see the beauty in what most of us throw away — ticket stubs, shopping bags, broken rubber bands, pencils, posted envelopes, and bulldog clips are just some of the items I found lying around his studio. “I don’t have to spend much on supplies,” he says. “I’ll spend a good amount of money on something if I really want it, but usually the thing I want is the thing about which people will say ‘Oh, just take it.’ I’m looking for weird shit. Of course it’s always nice to find an Eames chair, but I’m much happier if I find, like, a pile of notebooks from 1975.” On a rainy day in July, Rosenberg invited me to take a look around his studio and its overflowing coffers. This is what I found.
In March of 2008, Jason Polan set off into Manhattan armed only with a white notepad and a black Itoya Fine Point .6 pen. He had one goal: to draw every person in New York. It would seem an insurmountable task if not for Polan’s habit of documenting most anything that crosses his path, tagging each conquest with a thick scrawl detailing its circumstance, such as “Plant outside of a medical center on Orange and Magnolia Streets, April 25, 2010, drawn right after I tripped on the sidewalk,” or “Philly Cheese Steak, Pat’s Steaks, June 4, 2010.” In the service of his blog Every Person in New York, Polan — whose illustrations often appear in The New York Times and Esquire — has over the past two years drawn more than 10,000 of the city's residents.
When he was an art student in the '80s — in Kassel first, and then Berlin — Markus Linnenbrink worked primarily with grays and blacks. “I had no idea what to do with color,” he admits. “And honestly, I was a little afraid of it.” Which is ironic, considering that for more than a decade, the German-born, Brooklyn-based artist has built a body of work that centers around thick streaks of color — painted in stripes on gallery walls, poured in puddles on the floors of art-fair booths and installations, and dripped in lines down the face of his canvases. “Somehow a field trip to Italy where we spent three weeks painting outside got me into the idea of color, but I had a long period where I would mix, like, red and green. I feel like I had to walk through a lot of dirt and mud to get to the brightness.”
When Hamburg-based artist and textile designer Katharina Trudzinski decided to take a second residence in Berlin this spring, she found an inexpensive live-work space on the fringes of the up-and-coming Neuköln neighborhood — the city’s equivalent of Bushwick, Brooklyn — and saved two months’ rent by promising the landlord she’d renovate. But it was imagination, not thrift, that inspired her next move: After stripping the wood paneling from the walls and ceilings and tearing down a few ill-conceived door frames, she began painting the detritus and incorporating it into her sculptural installations and high-relief paintings. Made from constellations of scraps, street finds, and everyday junk cloaked in perfectly calibrated hues, her work — some of which becomes inspiration for the pieces in her clothing line — is meant to dialogue with its surroundings. “It’s not my intent that the materials should be cheap, I just like to use things that are around me,” she says. “I like to start with what I’ve got.”