M22_MOE_CourtesyoftheartistandSaraMeltzerGallery

Like a magician of the everyday, Felipe Barbosa transforms common objects into unexpected works of art. Flattened soccer balls become an op-art masterpiece. Firecrackers turn a plush toy into a provocative sculpture.

Though crafted from mundane materials, Barbosa’s work displays complex patterns and draws surprising connections between consumer culture, nostalgia, play, and aesthetics.

Born in the Brazilian city of Niterói, Barbosa attended art school in Rio de Janeiro, earning a master’s degree in 2005. He lives and works in Santa Teresa, a historic neighborhood in Rio, and he mines supermarkets and um e noventa e nove (R$1.99) stores for raw material to make his delightful and idiosyncratic art.

Luckily for him, there’s no shortage of stuff to take apart and put back together in a new way. For example, for his soccer ball pieces, “the models of balls change very fast, so I always have new and different colors and materials,” he explains.

But it’s more than just a vigorous supply that motivates Barbosa to make art out of plastic soda bottles and cheap neckties. He’s interested in the way we associate thoughts and memories with everyday things, from green fields and orange slices to cuddling a favorite stuffed toy. The cultural and personal memories attached to objects add layers of meaning. “I don’t change the nature of the object,” he says. “I want to have it as raw as possible, so that what you know about the object becomes part of the understanding of the work I create.”

His newest works use “snaps” or firecrackers to make what are perhaps the least cuddly stuffed animals ever, though still very compelling.

Because viewers can relate to the materials, they don’t need a background in contemporary art to enjoy the work. “Once I was showing a soccer ball piece in a gallery in Rio de Janeiro,” Barbosa says, “and a guy appeared and started to kiss the work because I had a symbol of Flamengo (a very popular soccer team) on it.” Now that’s truly a love of art.

>> More Barbosa: makezine.com/go/barbosa