When the Portuguese street artist Bordalo II came to San Francisco for his “Trashedy” exhibit at Heron Arts — his first solo show in the United States — he planned to use Bay Area recyclables to make new animal pieces. And that’s what Bordalo II did, going to recycling centers in the East Bay to get scores of parts cut from buckets, mats, phones, and other objects, all of which now comprise the life-size Plastic Young Elephant and other creatures at Heron Arts’ SoMa gallery.
By reusing discarded materials — and getting them for free — Bordalo II incorporates what he calls “end-of-life material” to make artistic statements about preserving the environment, supporting animal life, and reducing consumer waste. In his early 30s, Bordalo II has called his generation “extremely consumerist, materialistic, and greedy.” Even those in Bordalo II’s age group might agree, including anyone who walks past Half Coyote, which the artist attached to a building that overlooks a booming restaurant corridor on Divisadero.
Bordalo II put up Half Coyote in the days before “Trashedy” opened. And while his Heron Arts exhibit closes on March 24, Half Coyote will be on Divisadero Street for the foreseeable future, since the building owner is a Heron Arts friend. Bordalo II painted one-half of Half Coyote with the earthy hues of a real coyote. The other half is unpainted, the better to show off the different colors of the parts he garnered from the recycling centers.
Bordalo II has more than 100,000 followers on Instagram, where Half Coyote received more than 10,000 likes. His art is based on endangered animals, says Heron Arts Director and curator Tova Lobatz, who tells SF Weekly that his use of plastic is particularly meaningful. Lobatz went with Bordalo II to the recycling centers.
“Plastic is the one thing that they don’t make as much money off of,” she says. “Metal, paper, glass, and other things are more profitable for them. So they were more willing to give us the plastic. And that’s another reason he uses plastic, because it’s the thing that nobody wants. It’s also the thing that’s killing the animals.”