Every day since 1997, Yuji Agematsu has placed the small objects he finds while walking the streets of New York City inside the cellophane sleeves used to wrap boxes of cigarettes. These packages are carefully catalogued by date and presented in groups, like a monthly calendar that also functions as a diary or time capsule of Agematsu’s life. While his work transforms humble trash into records of the passing of time, it is also about a different kind of transformation: the magical process by which everyday materials become objects of aesthetic contemplation, simply because the artist looks at them in a new light. Look closely at Agematsu’s small piles, and you’ll see that these are, in fact, beautiful and surprising combinations of textures, shapes, and colors, just like many more traditional works of art.
Label from We the People: New Art from the Collection, October 23, 2018–July 21, 2019