Arts, Culture & Media

Dirty Art

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Every piece in Swept Away, an exhibition at New York's Museum of Arts and Design, is made up made of dirt, dust, trash, or pollution: "Stuff we leave behind, or deem unclean, or strive to remove or discard or disguise or hide." Henry Alford visited the show with Dave Hill, a comedian who's performed on HBO, Cinemax, and This American Life. Hill is also the biggest slob he knows. "This is like my apartment," Hill says looking around at the creative wonders of filth surrounding him.   They marvel at a quilt made of lint, a dust-covered cleaning cloth molded into the shape of a skull, and sculptures of crows burned to charcoal and smeared all over the place. A "dirt map" – an 8x10-foot plastic tray filled with 15 years of soil samples – confirms Hill's gravest suspicions: "Everything is covered in urine." Will the show make non-messy people understand the beauty in the funk? "Aside from making for some great first dates," Hill muses, "I hope it wakes people up to the fact that we're all messy people. Literally messy. And then emotionally messy." Swept Away: Dust, Ashes, and Dirt in Contemporary Art and Design is on view through August 12, 2012. Dave Hill is the author of the forthcoming book Tasteful Nudes. Henry Alford's latest book is a guide to manners Would It Kill You to Stop Doing That?    Slideshow: Art from Swept Away

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