Friday, August 29, 2014

Examples of Decollage

Here are some examples of the reductive collage techniques of décollage and dechirage. Basically, material can be removed in any way - sanding, tearing, using water, stressing paper, burning . . .

Wolf Vostell

Mimmo Rotella

Jaques Villegle

Francois Dufrene

Romare Bearden

Mark Bradford

(Detail of Them Big Old Titties

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Early Masters of Collage: Ernst, Schwitters and Motherwell

Dada, Surrealism and beyond: Collage becomes a mature form

The first two acknowledged masters of collage were German artists Max Ernst and Kurt Schwitters. These two men were both associated with (but not really a part of) Dada; Ernst was later considered one of the major Surrealist artists. These artists took collage in different directions.; both were extremely explorative and inventive, developing most of the collage techniques still discussed today, and together creating a vast area for subsequent artists to continue to explore. Both artists are too diverse to represent with a few images, so I would suggest checking out some of the many books in the library on them if you are interested in learning more about them. 

Max Ernst
Max Ernst, from his surreal 1933 picture-novel titled "A Week of Kindness" (Une semaine de Bonté). Ernst's cuts are so precise that it is difficult to distinguish the different elements. This work is available in the library.
Max Ernst, another page from Une Semaine de Bonté
Max Ernst Oedipus Rex (1922). Ernst often based oil paintings like this one on his collages. As a Surrealist, his work is often related to the psychological ideas of Sigmund Freud such as the subconscious. The Oedipus complex was another idea written about by Freud that is likely related to this painting.
Max Ernst Two Children are Threatened by a Nightingale (1924). Ernst created paper collages, paintings from paper collages, as well as paintings that incorporated real world objects. These works pushed the boundary between painting and sculpture, and helped to inspire assemblage and "combine paintings." 
Max Ernst Red Forest (1970)
Kurt Schwitters

Kurt Schwitters Das Undbild (1919). Schwitters started out primarily making small collages from scraps of paper and other found or discarded objects with paint. Although he used junk as material, Schwitters had a tenuous relationship with Dada members because he created formal and aesthetically-pleasing compositions, which opposed the anti-art, anti-aesthetic spirit of their movement.
Kurt Schwitters. Merzpicture Thirty-One (1920). Schwitters fully embraced collage. After creating a collage with the letters MERZ (from the word Commerz), he began to call his collages like the one above Merz pictures. The term came to encompass all of his creative activity, which ranged from collage and assemblage, to poetry, to what today we would call installation. At one point, he wrote:
 "I'm not Schwitters I'm Merz."
Kurt Schwitters. Mz. 252 Colored Squares (1922)
Kurt Schwitters Anything with Stone (1941) on the left and Merz picture 46 A(1921) on the right.

Kurt Schwitters. Neues Merxbild (1931). An example of one of Schwitter's assemblages.
Kurt Schwitters' Merzbau (Merz house)  was a room in his house that he essentially turned into a large sculpture. It is considered a precendent to installation, and shows how collage came to encompass Schwitter's life (blending art with life). The original Merzbau was destroyed during WWII. 
Robert Motherwell 

Although known as an abstract expressionist painter, Robert Motherwell was also a master of collage. Unlike the Cubists, who only dabbled with collage for a few years, Motherwell spent four decades making collages. These collages show a strong appreciation for and interest in the physical qualities of paper, from wallpaper to Japanese rice paper. Motherwell helped to show that collage could be a mature art form and a rich ground for visual and physical formal abstraction.
Robert Motherwell. Pancho Villa, Dead or Alive (1943)
Robert Motherwell. U.S. Art, New York, NY (1962)

Robert Motherwell. Cafetiere Filtres (1963)
Robert Motherwell. Untitled (Blue Gauloises Collage) (1974) 
Robert Motherwell. Australia II (1983)

Precedents and Origin of Collage: Scrapbooking, Trompe l'oeil and Synthetic Cubism


Although scrapbooking was seen as a craft activity primarily for women, it is a clear precedent to collage, and was practiced well over century before Picasso and Braque "invented" collage.

An example of scrapbooking where fragments of cut paper are incorporated together on a page. Made by Anne Wagner in honor of her niece Felicia between 1795 and 1834 in Britain. 

American Trompe l'oeil Painting 

Although collage is typically seen as having been started and developed in Europe around the time of World War I, the late 19th century American trompe l'oeil painters have an interesting relationship to collage, in that the realistic depiction of arrangements of paper and other objects in shallow space seems to almost predict the look of collages and assemblages that came about in the twentieth century. Additionally, these paintings are interesting to compare to later art movements associated with collage (and painting) like Cubism and Surrealism (although these movements came out of very different circumstances and central ideas).

Because these painters were American, it is unlikely that their paintings influenced those movements, but the similarities are hard to ignore, and Jefferson Davis Chalfant's Which is Which? (see below) has been touted by some as an example of collage that precedes Picasso.

These painters may also be of particular interest because several of them are connected to Philadelphia: John Peto and William Harnett, two of the major artists of this group, lived in Philadelphia and studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA). Excellent examples of their work can be found there, as well as at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Is Jefferson Davis Chalfant's Which is Which (c. 1890) the first collage? This trompe l'oeil (which literally means "deceive the eye") painter pasted a real stamp next to a painted stamp (and a painted newspaper scrap), incorporating a real object into a painting over 20 years before Picasso.

Some trompe l'oeil paintings, such William Harnett's Still life violin and music (1888) seem related to later collage-related movements of Cubism (see examples of still life collages featuring musical instruments below) and Surrealism (in that both feature paintings of "apparently arbitrary image association or ... grotesque or humorous juxtapositioning of imagery" (Wolfram, History of Collage)). (Also, both Cubism and Surrealism both occasionally used trompe l'oeil effects, although to very different ends than these American painters). 
Synthetic Cubism 

Pablo Picasso's Still Life with Chair Caning (1912)
The word collage, from the French word for "paste," originally comes from Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973) and Georges Braque (French, 1882-1963), who are credited with co-inventing the form in Paris in 1912. Pablo Picasso's 1912 Still Life with Chair Caning (Nature-morte à la chaise cannée) is usually credited as the first collage in the context of visual fine arts. This work introduced a real world object, a piece of oil cloth with a chair cane pattern, into a painting, marking the beginning of "synthetic" cubism (as opposed to the earlier period of "analytic" cubism, where people or objects were abstracted often by being portrayed from multiple angles simultaneously). Braque, a close collaborator of Picasso who helped him co-found Cubism, soon created what is thought to be the first papier collé or paper collage (the French term literally means "pasted paper"), thereby helping to move collage beyond the realm of painting. Examples of collages by Juan Gris (Spanish, 1887-1927), who worked closely with Picasso and Braque to develop Cubism, are also included.

Note that while these collages feature fragmentation and a destruction of the picture plane that is often seen as mirroring the horrors of World War I (1914-1918), they are all examples of additive collage. Reductive collage techniques came later. 

Georges Braque's Fruit Dish and Glass (1912), thought to be the first paper collage. The wood grain wallpaper shows how differently trompe l'oeil effects were used in cubist collages compared to the work of earlier the American realist painters mentioned above
Pablo Picasso. Guitar, Sheet Music and Wine Glass (1912)
Pablo Picasso. Guitar (1913) 
Juan Gris. The Sunblind (1914)
Pablo Picasso. Bowl of Fruit, Violin and Bottle 1914) 
Pablo Picasso. Pipe, Glass, Bottle of Vieux Marc (1914)
Juan Gris. Lunch (1914)
Georges Braque. Still Life with Glass and Letters (1914)
Juan Gris. Coffee Grinder, Cup and Glass on Table (1915)
Georges Braque. Bottle and Musical Instruments (1918)

Notice the use of cheap, everyday, "non-art" materials, such as newspaper, cardboard, and wallpaper, in these collages. Using these materials subverts the expectation that art is made from archival, specialized materials like oil paint or bronze; it also calls into question the need for an artist to have extreme technical skill; and finally, it begins to blur the lines between high and low art, as well as art and life. These aspects of collage were picked up on and more strongly emphasized by the members of the Dada "anti-art" movement, which including Francis Picabia, Hannah Hoch, Hans Arp, Raoul Hausmann, and many others.

In addition to Dada, virtually every subsequent art movement or major artist began to use or at least dabble with collage or collage related ideas. Other early collages include those made by Futurists, Suprematists, and Surrealists, as well as somewhat later collages by Pop artists, Bauhaus, junk artists and beyond. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Research Practices/PROJECT 1/Artists


Thomas Ruff
Ellen Gallagher
Gordon Matta Clark
Tacita Dean
Laylah Ali
Luc Tuymans
Thomas Hirshhorn
Christian Boltanski
Glenn Ligon
Robert Gober
Walton Ford
Bernd and Hilla Becher
Mark Dion
Louise Lawler

Sunday, August 17, 2014

John Stezaker//Interview with John Roberts

"...Picasso hardly said anything in his entire life on the subject of what he was doing, but one of the most interesting things he did say, which always sticks in my mind, and says a great deal about that moment for me, was that he doesn't look for images, he finds them. That was really the key moment for me, when I relinquished control of the image myself by dropping captions. I was allowing myself to be guided by images. Obviously Picasso did search for images; he went around junk yards and scrap heaps and bookshops, finding the readymade objects and bits and pieces that inspired him in his work and which he used in it, so he did search, obviously. What he meant was that the searching is more likely to lead you to not find anything, because you don't really know what you want in the first place, so you have to abandon yourself to a kind of searching which doesn't predispose you to a very specific conclusion or image. The finding is the key element because that's the point in which you've abandoned yourself from the search, you've taken yourself outside the linearity of a particular channel."

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Places to visit 2014

**this is an open post-Please feel free to add for your Peers**

VOX POPULI319 North 11th Street, Philadelphia (3rd floor) in 1988, Vox Populi is an artist collective that works to support the challenging and experimental work of under-represented artists with monthly exhibitions, gallery talks, performances, lectures, and related programming. For over 20 years, Vox has played a unique role in the cultural life of Philadelphia by bringing our audience a diverse range of programming and providing a supportive environment in which artists can take risks and gain valuable professional experience.

***Also Check outTiger Strikes Asteroid (, Progressive Sharing ( Marginal Utility ( Napoleon (, GrizzlyGrizzly (, Practice (… all at 319 North 11th Street

SPACE 1026
1026 Arch Street 2nd Floor Philadelphia
Space 1026 has been a 7 year experiment. It has developed from a handful of founders to dozens of co-conspirators. Together we are becoming Space 1026. Space 1026 is a common excitement for making, producing and creating, not for some outside world of aficionados, but for each other, for our own kind. Space 1026 is two floors of a building at 11th and Arch. That‘s in Philadelphia. It is a network of dozens of artists who‘ve had studios at the Space, past and present. It is dozens of artists who‘ve had shows at the Space over the last 7 years. It is dozens of artists who come to our events, and participate in our community. Space 1026 is a community - a creative community - not an institution.
Print Center
1400 N. American St., Philadelphia
**The Crane Arts building is home to other galleries including the giant Ice Box (
Fabric Workshop and Museum
1214 Arch Street, Philadelphia
The Fabric Workshop and Museum (FWM) is the only non-profit arts organization in the United States devoted to creating new work in new materials and new media in collaboration with emerging, nationally, and internationally recognized artists.
Crane Arts Building
2419 Frankford Ave.
Philadelphia Institute of Advanced Study
1712 North Second Street, Philadelphia
Don't be fooled by their 90's-esque website. Click the About tab and watch the magic.

709 Walnut Street

Locks Gallery
600 Washington Square South

Fleisher Ollman Gallery
1616 Walnut, Suite 100

Larry Becker Contemporary Art
43 N. Second Street Philadelphia 19106

Bridgette Mayer Gallery

LGTripp Gallery
47-49 N. 2nd Street

Pentimenti Gallery
Seraphin Gallery
1108 Pine Street

My House Gallery
2534 S. 8th street, Philadelphia

607 Bainbridge Street, Philadelphia

Little Berlin
119 West Montgomery, Philadelphia

Rebeckah Templeton
173 West Girard Ave., Philadelphia

Tiger Strikes Asteriod

Part Time Studios
2031 Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia


Research Practice/Collage and Assemblage F2014