July 12, 2012
The Exquisite Corpse was the theme for last week’s collage class – Embellish An Image Play With Collage – at the Pelham Art Center.
What is the Exquisite Corpse?
It’s a multi-part poem or image.
The Exquisite Corpse was very popular in the early 20th century with Surrealist poets and visual artists.
Exquisite Corpse is a collective collage (a group project) with words or images. In France, it’s called Cadavre Exquis.
If the collage was poetry, each person wrote a phrase on a sheet of paper, folded the paper to conceal what they had written, and passed the paper to the next player to add a new phrase.
If the collage was visual art, each person drew on a sheet of paper, folded the paper to conceal their drawing, and passed the paper to the next player. No one was allowed to peek until the game was completed and the project was complete.
The image below is in 4 parts and from Tammy Christel’s Jackson Hole art blog (Abstract Art in Wyoming at the J.H. Muse Gallery).
An Exquisite Corpse image could be disconcerting – and it was meant to be. The Surrealists held the view that human nature is irrational fundamentally. Surrealist artists include Max Ernst, Salvador Dali, Joan Miro and Andre Masson. Read more…
See the image below by Max Ernst (German, 1891-1976). Ernst titled his collage Santa Conversazione (1921) and assembled the collage with fragments of images from encyclopedias, commercial catalogs and photographs. He included birds and a button. The juxtaposition of images and the title make the work confrontational and give it the Surrealist edge.
I brought the book ALL MIXED UP by Carin Berger to inspire the class. It’s a mix and match book.
The image below shows one layout page in the book with the words Robot Balances Playfully opposite illustrations. The author says the book allows you to create over 13,000 characters. I like the selection of words. I think they can jump-start the creative collage process.
ROBOT BALANCES PLAYFULLY
I did my own sample collage called Robot Balances Playfully. See image below.
I had an image of machinery – a meter? It always knew it would become a face.
I played with the size of the original, scanned and reduced it so it would fit on the paper background (it’s the inside lining of a business envelope). I cut out a mouth from a Vogue Magazine model’s face. I cut out 2 eyes (actually they were breasts in a Picasso abstract painting reproduced in a recent issue of Art in America Magazine).
That became the top section – a Robot’s face.
I found an image of a seesaw online and added color to the black and white background. I like the fact that it’s graphic. It became the middle section and represents the robot’s midsection – and the word Balances.
I found an image of clown’s shoes online and added them to papers for the bottom section. The clown’s shoes stand in for the word Playfully.
Even though the class asked to do the Exquisite Corpse project, they didn’t do it and they didn’t finish the class project.
Finding images and cutting out images was time consuming (it takes a lot of time to find the right images). Many of the images were the wrong scale – too large.
I spoke with students about how to begin their collage and recommended placing background papers first to define the 3 separate segments. I thought it would help get organized.
I think it is much easier to begin a collage with background papers and then add images. They all wanted to work on the stark white substrate paper.
A COLLAGE CALLED TROUBLE
The 3 images below are collages in a series titled Trouble. Each is a variation on the preceding one, and each has one element in common – the torso (middle section) is the same.
I found background papers in art magazines. I found figures, faces, hands and shoes in fashion magazines. I found text everywhere. I resized images to get the right scale. I scanned composite images, printed them on good paper, and added more collage in smaller or larger scale.
The image above includes a grid of drawings in the background with the figure and text collaged over.
I am reading a book now titled Dada and Surrealism: A Very Short Introduction, by David Hopkins (Oxford University Press). It’s an historic overview and a good read. The author says for many people Dada and Surrealism represent not so much movements in 20th-century art history but “modern art” incarnate – a defining modernist sensibility. Artists assembled new structures from bits of paper (Kurt Schwitters, 1887-1948) or from pre-existing objects (Marcel Duchamp, 1887-1968).
In 21st -century America, supersaturated with imagery and concept, Duchamp and the readymade aesthetic still rules.
July 5, 2012
The summer class I teach at the Pelham Art Center: Embellish An Image: Play with Collage includes a mix of new students and returning students, ranging in ages from younger than 20 to seventies and above. It’s a great group. They are all creative and many are very experienced with art and collage.
Because it was the first class for the summer session, I asked the students to introduce themselves and say what they wanted to accomplish in the 8 classes. I wanted them to learn about each other and what they each expected. It’s important for the students to hear about each other’s goals, and sharing is important for the group experience.
COLLAGE and JEAN ARP
I planned the first class with a learning-to-see project that would be simple and also challenging: a geometric abstraction.
I brought individual sandwich-sized Baggies filled with tiny pre-cut papers, one Baggie for each person. See the image below with the papers, a metal ruler, a pair of scissors, a pencil and an eraser. You can see how small the papers are in relation to the ruler and pencil.
IT LOOKS EASY…LOOKS ARE DECEIVING
The collage project is inspired by a work of art titled Rectangles Arranged According to the Laws of Chance by Jean (Hans) Arp. Arp’s collage includes 22 papers. Arp (French, born Germany – Alsace, 1886-1966) created many collages titled Squares (Rectangles) Arranged According to the Laws of Chance. See more images.
I wanted the class to pay attention the different shapes and sizes of the papers. If the papers were different, they would create a totally different work of art.
I showed a sample (reproduction) of Art’s collage. See image below. The original collage, completed in 1916, is about 10 x 5 inches.
We discussed a little bit about Arp and the art movement called Dada. They all knew something about it. I suggested that Arp didn’t arrange his papers by chance even though the title of his work says so (and Arp did multiple collages with that title).
I tossed a few loose papers onto the table to demonstrate that the papers didn’t – couldn’t – land in the same order as the sample collage I showed them.
We talked about how to begin placing the papers. I created a sample collage with the same papers that were included in the Baggies. See the image below.
I said the class project would be fun and challenging and test their ability to look carefully (it really was all about developing that skill).
I showed them the gluing technique I use: white PVA glue applied with a bristle brush, papers pressed flat with a plastic squeegee. I showed them how I applied the glue and used a piece of waxed paper as a barrier sheet between the collage and the squeegee as the papers are glued down.
I said they should study the collage by Arp and notice the spaces between the papers, the angles if they varied, where the papers touch, and if they overlap.
The papers in the Baggies ranged in color from white to warm grey and green grey to black, representing 5 different tonal values. Each person got a watercolor-weight paper substrate in a contrasting white. The substrate is the bottom collage layer.
I showed the students that some of the papers in my sample collage were shaded with a pencil and some of the pencil markings were lightened with the eraser – all to create texture and tonal variations.
I brought artists pencils – 3B, 4B, 5B, and 7B. They tried out the different pencils and selected the pencil they wanted to use. B is a soft lead pencil. The higher the number, the softer the lead and darker the line. I also brought pencils H and HB, which are harder lead and make lighter lines. Nobody wanted to use these.
See samples of the collages created in the class below. Each collage is inspired by Arp’s collage, but each one is unique because each student decided to be original as they finished assembling the papers. Many took the collage to the next level and cut and pasted extra papers to embellish their image.
The images above include extra papers, curvy, cut shaped papers, and 3 dimensional cut papers.
We all need creative time. The collage class is about play (it’s titled Play With Collage), but it’s really about personal expression, developing an eye, and building confidence with each success.
I believe PLAY IS SERIOUS WORK.
I checked out “Adults Need to Play, Too (online) and found a link to many articles, including an article in Scientific American magazine titled The Serious Need for Play.
They say life flows with greater ease if we allow ourselves some time for play every day.
They say it makes us better adjusted, smarter and less stressed. Read more…
May 3, 2012
In my last post, I wrote about the artist Jean (Hans) Arp. He made collage according to the laws of chance. He dropped squares of paper onto paper and gave the works titles like Squares Arranged According to the Laws of Chance. The image below is made with cut and pasted papers, ink and bronze paint (1917), image courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY.
Arp was a founding member of the Dada movement that started in Zurich, Switzerland in 1916. A lot of Dada was about the laws of chance. The movement started as a political protest and dissipated after the close of World War 1. Many of the artists (Jean Arp, Kurt Schwitters, and Max Ernst) left protest for studio practice and went on to build stellar art careers.
I am fascinated by Dada. I think it’s resurgent, and think a lot of contemporary art is inspired by Dada.
Dada and Marcel Duchamp
Dada is still with us because of the artist Marcel Duchamp.
Duchamp was not a member of the Dadaist movement (he resisted joining groups). But, he was a natural Dadaist all his life.
The Bride and the Bachelors
Read Calvin Tomkins book The Bride and the Bachelors: Five Masters of the Avant-Garde (Duchamp, Tinguely, Cage, Rauschenberg, Cunningham). I bought the paperback, first published in 1965. The first chapter is about Marcel Duchamp (French, 1887-1968).
Duchamp said: “Why worry about art when life is what matters…Do unto others as they would wish – but with more imagination.”
Duchamp invented the term readymade – see the image below of “Bicycle Wheel” (1913/1964)
Calvin Tomkins: Unlike the Surrealist objet trouve – a common object chosen for its accidental aesthetic value, the readymade has no aesthetic value whatsoever (according to Duchamp). Tomkins adds: therefore, it functions in a sense as a derisive comment on all art traditions and dogmas.
Read more about Duchamp at the Centre Pompidou (Paris, France) website.
Every art movement that uses everyday objects today can thank Duchamp for leading the way.
One of Duchamp’s most famous readymades was titled “Fountain” – a porcelain urinal turned upside down with the signature R. Mutt.
Duchamp (and Joseph Stella) sent the sculpture to the 1917 exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists at the NYC Armory show. Duchamp was a founding member of the Society. The work created a furor. The hanging committee refused to exhibit the readymade sculpture.
Calvin Tomkins wrote: Duchamp commented slyly: The only works of art in America are her plumbing and her bridges.
Fountain Art Fair, New York 2012
Flash Forward to 2012 and the Fountain Art Fair (March 9-11) at the 69th Regiment Armory at Lexington Ave. and 25th Street during New York Art Week.
This is the same 69th Regiment Armory where Marcel Duchamp famously hung his “Nude Descending a Staircase in 1913 (showing alongside contemporary artists like Edgar Degas, Edvard Munch and Pablo Picasso) – Duchamp would later secure a place in art history with his readymade (urinal) titled FOUNTAIN (1917).
In March, I participated with a group of 72 artists in a salon-style installation at the Fountain Art Fair with a group called Hullaballoo Collective – at booth E212. The collective was organized by Bernard Klevikas and several other artists who live and work in Brooklyn, NY. I exhibited 2 collages.
Here’s a link to the BlouinArtInfo blog with the title: Fountain Artists Honor Armory History with Playful Nods to Duchamp…
One Hullaballoo member made the connection from the Fountain Art Fair to Marcel Duchamp, exhibited a work titled Idol Inaction, and arrived at the opening reception wearing a Duchamp jersey. See image of Brian Goings below at the Hullaballoo booth.
Bernard Klevickas wrote the Hullaballoo statement:
Hullaballoo Collective is a diverse group of artists who have come together through social media to present a salon style exhibition at the Fountain Art Fair… We are artists. We are part of the egalitarian zeitgeist, the energy that underlies the new century and that uses new tools to reach broad audiences. There’s a Hullaballoo website. There was a lot of buzz. The website shows works by the artists in the Collective.
The image below is my work, titled Recycle 1, collage, assorted papers recycled from old monoprints, 22×18 inches, cut and assembled in random order.
I don’t know if this year’s downtown Armory show was different from recent years. I’ve read reviews that say the show has changed and is getting upscale. I was expecting the space to be raw and unfinished and the art to be young and edgy.
According to Fountain organizers, this year’s show attracted over 10,000 visitors in 3 days. On opening night, there was a line around the block to get in – and we did get art critics Jerry Salz and Roberta Smith at our booth. Read about the record attendance…
WHAT WOULD DUCHAMP SAY?
What would Duchamp say? I know he disdained the confluence of art and commerce (but managed very well – thank you!). some art critics say he gave up art for chess, but his readymades were re-made in the mid-20th century, shown to great fanfare, and his work is now known around the world.
I bet he would love the idea of social media and the possibilities of the Internet.
What do you think Duchamp would do about Social Media?
April 25, 2012
I am a big fan of work by the artist Jean (Hans) ARP. He was born in 1886 in Strasbourg. His mother was French and his father was German. When he spoke French, he referred to himself as Jean; when he spoke German he referred to himself as Hans.
Arp was a founding member of the Dada movement that started in Zurich, Switzerland in 1916.
He is known for his curvy biomorphic sculptures and painted wood relief sculpture. He is also known for geometric abstract collage.
One of my favorite works by Arp is titled Squares Arranged According to the Laws of Chance , 1917 (cut and pasted papers, ink, and bronze paint), collection the Museum of Modern Art, New York, seen below (image the Internet).
Arp claimed he created the work by dropping cut and torn papers onto another paper and attaching them where they landed. Many people believe the artist moved the papers around as he made the collage.
Arp denied it, and his titles are his testament to the Dada premise that the work is done by chance.
Dada art is anti-art. It is anti-aesthetic.
By definition, Dada (especially in painting) was based on irrationality.
A BUNCH OF SQUARES
In my opinion, a painting that is a bunch of squares arranged by chance is not high art – unless it is Dada. Then it is anti-art in the highest dadaist tradition.
The image below is another early collage by Arp, titled Rectangles Arranged According to the Laws of Chance (1916) 9 7/8 x 4 7/8 inches.
HAVE YOU EVER DROPPED A SQUARE?
I’ve tried to drop squares and see if they land well.
I teach collage classes and ask students to drop squares and see if they land well. I show them the image by Arp (above).
It doesn’t work. The squares never land where they should. We always feel compelled to adjust the spaces between the papers, moving them closer together or further apart.
Here’s a Lesson in Design
The spaces in between are important. Spaces help create a pattern and a rhythm for the composition, both basic elements of good design.
Arp is famous for his curvy sculpture and painted wood relief sculpture.
He also titled them Arranged According to the Laws of Chance . The image below was done in 1928. It is a painted wood relief sculpture, 55 1/8 x 42 ½ inches (private collection).
Notice some of the shapes are circular and some are biomorhic (like flower petals). Notice the spaces between the wood pieces. Some are closer; some are further apart; some almost touch. Notice the variations in size and value. Some are bigger; some are smaller. Some are darker; some are lighter. The relationship between the pieces is perfect and creates a sense of movement and rhythm so your eye keeps moving.
SURROUNDED BY HIS SCULPTURE
The image below shows Arp in 1958 in his studio at Meudon, a suburb of Paris, France, surrounded by his sculpture (photo by Andre Villers).
I found the images in a book about Arp printed in 1958. The book was published by the Musuem of Modern Art, New York.
I was lucky to find the book – by chance – at a tag sale in New Canaan, CT at the Silvermine Arts Center (the tag sale is an annual event).
I brought my collage to Silvermine for the 90th Anniversary Exhibition, May 5-June 9, 2012 and found an art book.
I planned to write this post about Art and Dada, and by chance found a book about Arp and Dada.
Below is an image of my collage I delivered to Silvermine Arts Center. The papers are cut and torn and assembled – not by chance. The image is 16×18 inches.
I converted my collage (above) from color to black and white – to match the other black and white images from the book about Arp.
The collage is made with recycled papers. I think the elements look like totems. That is how the work got its title Recycled Totems.
Do you think Arp created his collages by chance?
Did you ever try to create a work by chance?
Thank you for reading. Please leave a comment below.
Read more about Dadaism:
Dada laid the groundwork for abstract art and sound poetry; it’s a precursor to postmodernism and pop art. Read about the important artists in Dada and how the Dada movement influenced performance art, poetry and music…