Collage at the New York Studio School June 10-July 14, 2019

I visited the New York Studio School exhibition ATTACHED: Meghan Brady, Sarah Faux, Melissa Meyer and Anne Ryan (June 10-July 14, 2019). The exhibition included three small collages by Anne Ryan (1889-1954) a pioneer in collage and early generation NY Abstract Expressionist. The exhibition also included 13 larger works by 3 contemporary artists: Meghan Brady, Sarah Faux and Melissa Meyer, who are painters and also work in collage. Meghan Brady’s works are wall-sized paper pieces with painted and cutout shapes.  Sarah Faux’s works are collaged canvas. Melissa Meyer’s works are watercolor assemblage.

The exhibition was co-curated by Rachel Rickert and Graham Nickson. The images below show works by each artist in the show. See all the works online here.

 

Meghan Brady, Future Figure I

The image above is by Meghan Brady, titled Future Figure 1 (2018). It’s collage on paper, acrylic, and backed with Tyvek, 110 x 91 inches, image: courtesy Mrs. Gallery. This is one of two wall-sized works by Meghan Brady in the exhibition. Brady’s works are made with paper pieces that include wide sweeping strokes of paint, and large painted and cutout shapes. The curators wrote: Brady’s works …embody the bold and deliberate nature of cut and paste collage…her collages are all-consuming like a tapestry, but one that has been shattered and re-formed.

 

Melissa Meyer, Rearrangement Series #6

The image above is by Melissa Meyer, titled Rearrangement Series #6 (2018), collaged watercolors on paper, 15 ¾ x 12 inches. Collage is about juxtaposition and in this work, Meyer created a collage that juxtaposed hard, cut edges against soft, transparent, painterly brush strokes. Lennon Weinberg Inc. represents Melissa Meyer and the gallery is located at 514 W 25 Street, NYC.

 

Melissa Meyer, Rearrangement Series #8

The image above is by Melissa Meyer, titled Rearrangement Series #8 (2019), collaged watercolors on paper, 17 ½ x 32 inches.

 

Melissa Meyer and her MacDowell sketchbook

I took the image above at the opening reception. It shows Melissa Meyer standing in front of her work titled MacDowell Sketchbook (2012), collaged watercolors on paper, 6 x 36 inches. This is one of 7 works by Meyer in the exhibition. See other works included in the exhibition here.

I wrote about Melissa Meyer in a post (January 7, 2019) titled Melissa Meyer: Drawing with Paint – Painting Collage. Meyer makes a connection between her approach to painting and the collage process of cutting, pasting, and arranging elements, and says she isolates elements while building the whole painting…and wants viewers to experience each part of a painting as dynamically as they experience its entirety. The post is about her approach to painting and collage.

 

Sarah Faux, Let it go higher

The image above is by Sarah Faux and titled Let it go higher (2019), pigment, acrylic, dye and oil on cut canvas, 65 x 61 inches, image: Capsule Shanghai. Read more about the artist at the Capsule Shanghai website.

 

Sarah Faux, Piriformis

The image above is by Sarah Faux and titled Piriformis (2019).  It’s acrylic and oil on cut canvas, 72×49 inches. Her gallery, Capsule Shanghai, writes: Sarah Faux merges the seemingly disparate strands of figurative representation and gestural abstraction…with flattened fields of color. Faux lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

 

Anne Ryan, Untitled #549

The image above is by Anne Ryan (1889-1954), Untitled #549, collage with papers and found scraps of fabric, 17 ¾ x 39 ¾ inches dated 1948-54.  The color palette is mostly monochromatic. This is a relatively large work by Anne Ryan. Most of her works are tiny.

 

Anne Ryan, Untitled #562

The image above shows one of two tiny collages by Anne Ryan in the exhibition. It’s Untitled #562 (1948-54), collage, 7  1/16 x 6 ¾ inches, courtesy of Washburn Gallery, NY. In this work, Ryan’s collage papers are soft, with torn edges. She works with fragments of different materials clustered and layered within her composition.

I wrote about Anne Ryan when I first saw her collages at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) exhibition titled Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction (April 19-August 12, 2017). Read it here. Anne Ryan was born in Hoboken, New Jersey and was a self-taught writer, painter and printmaker who began to work in collage (at the age of 58) when she saw an exhibition of works by the German artist Kurt Schwitters.  From 1948 to 1954 she created about 400 tiny collages. Many of her collages are in permanent collections at major museums in the U.S. but we don’t often see then in the museum galleries. Many of Ryan’s collages include string, netting, handmade papers and woven fabric that are often frayed at the edges. Her choice of materials was always meticulous, and she often included exquisite hand made papers.

 

AT THE OPENING RECEPTION

 

Opening reception: Meghan Brady, Future Figure II

I took the image above at the opening reception. People (and a dog) are standing in front of Meghan Brady’s wall-size work titled Future Figure II, collage on paper, acrylic, and backed with Tyvek, 100 x 106 inches. Notice how large the work is in comparison to the people standing nearby. This is the 2ndwork by Meghan Brady in the exhibition.

The day after the opening reception, I contacted Rachel Rickert, who co-curated the exhibition for Attached with Graham Nickson. I asked her several questions. She was very gracious and shared her comments that follow.

INTERVIEW with Rachel Rickert

Q: How did you determine these 4 artists were the right artists for ATTACHED?

RR: The exhibition was inspired by a proposal from Melissa Meyer and Sarah Faux who are included in the show, suggesting a large group exhibition about Collage in the 21st Century. Graham Nickson and I decided to focus on a smaller group of artists that would include Melissa Meyer, Sarah Faux and Meghan Brady. I saw Brady’s large scale collage works at Tiger Strikes Asteroid in Brooklyn in 2018 and felt her works would be a good addition because they demonstrate the range of the medium of collage – and would add elements of bold gestural abstraction with irregularly shaped pieces and bodily references. Graham Nickson suggested adding Anne Ryan as the 4th artist because she would frame the contemporary works with an important historical precedent. Anne Ryan discovered collage in the later years of her life, and dedicated herself to this new found medium between 1948 and 1954.

Rickert added: “Each artist has or had an active painting practice in tandem with or that led them into collage. We wanted to showcase the collage side of their practice, and how the medium has led the artists to discover new, and courageous elements in their work.

 

Q: What arrangements did the NYSS gallery have to make for loan of art works?

RR: The New York Studio School worked with each artist to loan the works directly from them or from their gallery. We owe a big thanks to Mrs. Gallery for working with us on Megan Brady’s work, Capsule Shanghai for Sarah Faux’s, and Washburn Gallery for loaning us the Anne Ryan pieces.

 

Q: How engaged were the artists in details for the exhibition? Did they help determine which works would be included?

RR: Choosing artwork for the exhibition was a collaborative process between myself and Graham Nickson, and the artists. We asked the artists/galleries to submit available works that they felt would be good candidates for the exhibition, and Graham and I discussed what work would allow each artist to shine, while combining to create an interesting whole presentation.

 

Q: Why did you select the title Attached:

RR: Attached speaks to the physical process of collage, the parts that were stuck together to create new wholes. We wanted a title that encompasses the making and the commitment of collage final decisions—when things are attached in place.

 

Q: How are the artists connected to the NYSS?

RR: Melissa Meyer is a friend of the school and has taught a Drawing Marathon and lectured in our Evening Lecture series. We presented her works in the exhibition Melissa Meyer: in Black and White, December 14, 2007 – February 3, 2008. Sarah Faux was a student of Melissa Meyer’s, and Meyer introduced her to the School. Meghan Brady was not previously connected to the School, but her experimental studio-centric, concept through making process is very much in line with the School’s philosophy.  The School admired Anne Ryan’s overall body of work for its intensity and beauty. Ryan did not previously have a connection with the NYSS. We were excited to share the work of these dynamic artists with our community.

 

Rachel Rickert is the Exhibitions and Alumni Coordinator at the New York Studio School.

Finally – It was a terrific exhibition and I was so pleased to see it and meet Melissa Meyer.

 

 

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Collage is not just about Cut and Paste…

I visited the VIP Preview at Art New York in May 2019 with a goal to see works in collage and works that explore a modern collage aesthetic – by important women artists. The fair, located at Pier 94, at 55thStreet & Westside Highway is an international contemporary and modern art event (May 2-5, 2019).

Collage, if narrowly defined, is about cut and paste – typically with papers. Modern artists expanded its boundaries and contemporary painters use it as a visual model. A collage aesthetic can be the way a work of art is assembled or constructed. It can also be about a visual experience. We live in the age of collage.

Very quickly, I found three artists – an American Abstract Expressionist painter (Grace Hartigan) who also made paper collage, a French icon (Sonia Delaunay) who was represented at the fair by modern tapestry, and a contemporary American (Debbie Ma) who constructs large abstract paintings with marble dust. I was intrigued by the formal strategies and presentation of all three, and felt each artist offered a new way to view modern art in the context of the times in which she lives/lived.

 

Grace Hartigan, Dolls

The image above is a painting by Grace Hartigan (American, 1922-2008), seen at the C. Grimaldi Art Gallery booth at the fair.  It’s titled Dolls (1976), and is oil on canvas and 49 x 82 inches.  The collage aesthetic is expressed here in the way the artist juxtaposes figures in the painting composition.

Hartigan’s paintings included dolls, courtesans, film stars and mythical, chimerical creatures drawn from fantasy and, as the artist stated, “understanding the life you are living.” Many of the subjects she painted were poor or derelict people she saw on the streets in her neighborhood. Her life experience was a visual collage. The painting expresses the life she lived.

I learned Hartigan started to create collage in the late 1950s.

 

Grace Hartigan, collage

The two images, above and below, are collages by Grace Hartigan. From a distance I thought I was looking at collages by Lee Krasner (American, 1908 – 1984), but, walking closer, knew it was not true.

I’m reading Mary Gabriel’s book titled Ninth Street Women, subtitled Five Painters and the Movement that Changed Modern Art – about the rise of Abstract Expressionism in New York in the 1950s.  Grace Hartigan was one of the few female artists included in the movement with Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline and Arshile Gorky. She was known for combining gestural abstraction with imagery derived from art history and popular culture. She began to receive a high level of exposure, and her paintings were included in the exhibition 12 Americans at the Museum of Modern Art in NY (1956), as well as the exhibition The New American Paintings that traveled throughout Europe from 1958 to 1959. She had her first solo show in 1950, and three years later, her first major sale, when the Museum of Modern Art bought her painting titled The Persian Jacket (see below), oil on canvas, 57.5 x 48 inches.

 

Grace Hartigan, collage

 

Grace Hartigan, the Persian Jacket

 

Mary Gabriel’s book titled Ninth Street recounts the struggles of the early abstract expressionist artist, particularly the struggles of the women.

In 1960, Hartigan moved to Baltimore, and promptly fell off the NY art world map. Pop Art and Minimalism had eclipsed Abstract Expressionism, and male artists dominated the art market. Hartigan had to paint in a loft in a former Baltimore department store and taught at the Maryland Institute College of Art, but the college created a graduate school around her (the Hoffberger School of Painting) and she became director in 1965. Hartigan taught at the school until retiring in 2007, one year before she died.

Hartigan’s work is represented extensively in private and public collections, including the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Hirshhorn Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMA, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

 

Geometric Abstraction and a Tapestry

 

Sonia Delaunay, tapestry at Art NY

I saw the image above at one of the first booths at Art NY. I walked closer to make sure the work was by Sonia Delaunay. I recognized the image because I am a great fan of the artist’s work. It’s titled Nocturne Matinale, and is a wool tapestry (commissioned ca. 1970), 70.9 x 71.1 inches. The gallerist told me Sonia Delaunay (French, born in Ukraine, 1885- 1970) was the first living female artist to have a retrospective at the Louvre Museum in Paris in 1964.  My image shows it’s a wall hanging and there are iron sculptures standing next to and in front.  I am familiar with Delaunay’s gouache paintings and prints, but never knew her works as tapestry in the same bold, geometric design.

 

Sonia Delaunay, Nocturne Matinale

The image above is another wool tapestry, also titled Nocturne Matinale, also 70.9 x 71,1 inches. With this image, you see the work without the distracting sculpture in front. Sonia Delaunay wrote: For me, the abstract and the sensual should come together…” The tapestry is lush and sensual. I wanted to touch it.

I’ve always loved and been inspired by Delaunay’s colors and geometric designs. The style is called Orphism. With her husband Robert, Sonia Delaunay was part of a group in Paris thatpioneered the style – a fusion of Cubism and Neo-Impressionism that was influenced by the vivid colors of Fauvism. In Orphism, primary and secondary colors (red with green, yellow with purple, and blue with orange) are combined to create a visual vibration.

 

Sonia Delaunay, Thunderbird

The image above is a lithograph on wove paper by Sonia Delaunay and is titled Thunderbird, ed/75, image size: 20 x 16.5 inches (52.5cm x 42 cm), sheet: 30 x 22 inches (75.5 cm x 56 cm).

 

Sonia Delaunay, Color Rhythm

The image above, by Sonia Delaunay, is titled Colour Rhythm No 1921, It’s gouache on paper, 1973 (collection: MoMA), 27 ¼ x 22 in (69.2z55.9 cm)

Sonia Delaunay died on December 5, 1979 in Paris, France at the age of 94. Today, the artist’s works are held in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, and the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, among others.

 

Paintings and Marble Dust

 

Debbie Ma at Art NY

I selected Debbie Ma as the third artist for this post because I think her geometric paintings are stunning and believe her approach to painting personifies a collage aesthetic. I took the image of the artist with her work (above) at the fair. The work is titled No Way In (2019) and is marble dust on canvas, 64 x 80 x 3 in (162.5 x 203.1 x 7.6 cm).

 

DMD Contemporary booth at Art NY

Ma is represented by DMD Contemporary in NY, and the booth (seen above) at Art NY featured Debbie Ma as a solo artist. The paintings show depth, texture and tonality in the formal mix in every work.

 

Debbie Ma, Cross Country

The image above is by Debbie Ma, titled Cross Country (2006) and is a painting with marble dust on canvas, 60 x 36 inches (152 x 137 cm). Cross Country is a wobbly grid in brown black and white. It’s in the permanent collection at the David T. Owsley Museum of Art, Muncie, IN.

Debbie Ma’s works are a tapestry of quiet patterns in bold formation.  Her paintings are like visual two-dimensional sculptures. They are amazing to see in person.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

I chose 3 artists who lived at different times, in different places and worked in different media.

I created a collage experience for myself at Art New York in the way I viewed and experienced the art.

Please share you comments about the idea of a collage aesthetic.

 

Martha Rosler – Photomontage, Video, Sculpture and Installation

 

I visited the exhibitionMartha Rosler: Irrespective at the Jewish Museum in New York (November 2, 2018 – March 3, 2019), a five-decade retrospective of works by the artist, including installation, sculpture, video, photography and photo-collage. Rosler (American, b. 1943) is a Brooklyn-based artist and was born and raised in New York, graduated from Brooklyn College (1965) and the University of California, San Diego (1974).

 

Martha Rosler 640 installation view

The image above shows two installations. The formal banquet dining table with cloth and candelabra  is titled A Gourmet Experience. It was one of Rosler’s earliest large-scale works and was part of her Brooklyn College master of fine arts thesis exhibition in 1974.   On the wall behind the table are slide projections.  Photo by Jason Mandella. Image courtesy of the artist and Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York. Video component courtesy of Electronic Arts Intermix, New York

 

The right side of the image above shows an installation that includes lingerie-clad mannequins hanging from the ceiling, attached to the wall, or propped on a metal chair or pedestal. This installation is titled Objects With No Titles. See the full image below. Photo by Jason Mandella, Image: Courtesy of the artist and Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York.

The Jewish Museum website included personal commentary by Eden Rachel Chinn, a Digital Intern, who said she saw humor in Martha Rosler’s  Objects With No Titles and wrote “When I first saw Objects With No Titles, I laughed. The sculptural installation is comprised of polyester batting comically forced into women’s lingerie, suspended from floor to ceiling. This installation invites us to reexamine what has changed since the work was first installed in 1973, and added: Nothing has changed.“ Read it here.

Cut and Paste Photomontage

 

Martha Rosler 640 Makeup Hands Up

Martha Rosler, Makeup Hands Up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The earliest works at Martha Rosler: Irrespective  were cut-and-paste photomontage, a collage technique. The image above is titled Makeup/Hands Up and is from the series House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home, c. 1967-72. The original was photomontage. This work is a pigmented inkjet print, 23 ¾ x 13 15/16 inches (printed 2011).

Makeup/Hands Up shows a close-up view of a model with manicured nails  applying highlighter makeup under her brows. The original media is a color photo and pasted in the middle is a smaller B&W war photo that shows a woman forced to march at gunpoint with her hands up.

 

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Martha Rosler, Objects With No Titles

The image above shows the  installation Objects With No Titles (1973/2018). It includes lingerie-clad mannequins hanging from the ceiling, attached to the wall, or propped on a metal chair or pedestal. Photo by Jason Mandella, Image: Courtesy of the artist and Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York.

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Martha Rosler, Cleaning the Drapes

The image above is titled Cleaning the Drapes, and is one of twenty works from the early series House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home (c. 1967-1972).  Photo: courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), NY. This work is a pigmented inkjet print (photomontage), 17 15/16 x 23 ¾ inches, printed in 2011, and shows a woman with a 1960’s haircut vacuuming gold brocade drapes that are pulled back to reveal a view of the Vietnam War right outside the window, an image of the war people could have seen on the nightly news or in the newspaper at that time. This work is Rosler’s feminist critique of American involvement in Vietnam. Roster said: “Pretty  much everyone hated my work when I made it, except for the feminists.”

Martha Rosler considered these works agitprop and distributed them as Xeroxed flyers at anti-war demonstrations.

 

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Martha Rosler, The Gray Drape

The Grey Drape (2008), seen above, is a photomontage Rosler created to reprise her House Beautiful Bringing the War Home series – this time done in 2004 and 2008 as protest against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. She revised the title to House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home, New Series.

Many critics were not kind to the new series. They said Rosler showed a lack of imagination and innovation. Jerry Saltz wrote a review titled “Welcome to the Sixties, Yet Again” in New York Magazine (2008). The title says it all. Read it here.

I found a positive review of Rosler’s work in a post by Melissa Huang (dated June 18, 2011) who wrote she found it interesting that Rosler was examining events and media imagery with the same eye as in the late 60’s and early 70’s, adding, the two series blend together as if Americans were as oblivious to the war in Iraq as they were previously to the war in Vietnam. She included a quote by Rosler defending her reprise of the series:

“I wanted to – even at the loss of some self-pride – go back to something that I had done many years before in exactly the same way, or as close a way as I could, to say…I must return to exactly the same form because we have sunk back to the same level, of a kind of indifferent relationship to what our country is doing. I wanted specifically to evoke a mood and invoke a way of working, to say, “Tout la change, tout la meme chose.”

 

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Martha Rosler, Invasion

The image above is titled Invasion, photomontage, 2008. This work shows a tank flanked by an army of men in identical black suits. See an online slideshow of Rosler’s Irrespective exhibition at the Mitchell-Innes and Nash Gallery.

Charles Moffat uses the headline “Embracing Controversy” in an article about Martha Rosler at The Art History Archive. He writes:

“…Her work can be formally complex, politically powerful and uncannily funny — sometimes all at once. She is a master manipulator of images: cutting, pasting, decontextualizing, mimicking, and rearranging our expectations.

 

Rosler’s works have been displayed in several Whitney Biennials (1979, 1983, 1987, 1990), major national and international museums, and the Venice Biennale (2003). She has received Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (1975, 1976, 1980, 1983 and 1984). She is a published author, including books, catalogues and periodicals.

 

Ellen Gallagher

April 10, 2019

Ellen Gallagher (American, b.1965) is a painter, collagist, printmaker, film and video artist. She was born in Providence, RI. She studied writing at Oberlin College, OH, from 1982 to 1984, and attended Studio 70, in Fort Thomas, KY, in 1989. She earned a BFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, in Boston, MA in 1992. While attending the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Gallagher joined (and later became the art coordinators) at the Darkroom Collective, a group of poets living and working out of Inman Square in Cambridge, MA. The experience was pivotal to her career because the performers and the audience were bi-racial.  In1993 she received a scholarship and attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in ME. Her background is bi-racial. Her father was born in the United States, of West African (Cape Verde) roots. Her mother’s background was Caucasian Irish Catholic.

 

Minimalist Abstract Art

Critics say her aesthetic has been influenced by the Minimalist style of paintings by Agnes Martin.Gallagher’s works, however, look at issues of race, identity and transformation and reference blackface and minstrelsy, by scattering tiny caricatures of eyes and mouths across creamy expanses of Penmanship paper on canvas. The works are large, seeming abstract, cool and Minimal from a distance, but – up close – confront the viewer with Gallagher’s social commentary about race. It’s a brilliant confrontation.

 

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Ellen Gallagher, Afro Mountain

The image above, titled Afro Mountain (1994), is ink and collaged paper on canvas, 84 x 72 inches, collection: the Whitney Museum of American Art. Afro Mountain is considered an example of minimalist abstract art and includes penmanship paper glued to a canvas with ink drawings of lips that overtake the entire bottom half of the large canvas. Afro Mountain was included in the 2010 Whitney Biennial.

 

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Ellen Gallagher, close-up view of Afro Mountain drawings

The image (above) is a close-up view of Afro Mountain, showing Gallagher’s repetitive drawings of lips, seen in the lower half of the work.

 

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The image above shows Ellen Gallagher at work on a photo-etching on a metal plate.

There’s an excellent interview of Ellen Gallagher posted at Art21 in which the artist responds to questions about two works titled “eXelento” and “DeLuxe.” She discussed how she collected and archived materials from black photo journals dated from 1939 to 1972, including magazines like Our World, Sepia and Ebony – saying she was first attracted to the wig advertisements that had a grid-like structure – but, at the same time, said she was unable to identify with the images of the young women models. This interview was originally published on PBS.org in September 2005 and was republished on Art21.org in November 2011.

 

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Ellen Gallagher, DeLuxe

The image above is titled DeLuxe (20045) 60 parts, photogravure and collage, arranged in five rows of twelve. Overall: 84 x 175 inches. Gallagher began DeLuxe by collecting advertisements for hair straightening products, wigs, and stockings from mid-century black magazines. She cut and pasted the facial features and blocks of text into collages, then turned the collages into flat, seamless photogravures, and then altered the photogravures, coloring them in, adding Plasticine wigs and masks, and attaching adornments such as beads, rhinestones and gold leaf.

Gallagher said: “The wig ladies are fugitives, conscripts from another time and place, liberated from the ‘race’ magazines of the past…I have transformed them from the pages that once held them captive…” Gallagher has also described the array of characters as a “procession” to suggest parallels between their transformation and historical costumed pageants such as W.E.B. Dubois’s Star of Ethiopia 1913, in which hundreds of participants enacted the glories of a series of African civilizations from ancient Egypt and Sudan up to the tragedy of slavery.”

DeLuxe addresses the complex role hair plays in African and African-American culture as a means of ornament, adornment and personal expression – a signifier of cultural identify and difference, and a talisman for both strength and protection. Read more here.

 

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Ellen Gallagher, eXelento

The image above is titled eXelento (2004), Plasticine, ink and paper on canvas, 96 x 192 inches, photo courtesy of Gagosian Gallery, NY. The image was photographed from the side, and you can see the yellow Plasticine wig additions are dimensional.

 

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Ellen Gallagher, DY-NO-Mite

The image above is titled DY-NO-Mite (1995), oil, pencil and paper on canvas, 84 x 72 inches, collection: the Denver Art Museum, Colorado. I saw this work in person when it showed in New York.

 

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Ellen Gallagher, Oh! Susannah

The image above is titled Oh! Susanna, dated 1995 (one of several works by the artist with the same title), and includes pasted penmanship papers on canvas with drawing of eyes and lips in a dark strip along the top. The title relates to Stephen Foster’s minstrel song Oh! Susanna, a song that was originally a slave lament about families being ripped apart. The words were later adapted to reflect the loneliness of settlers heading west during the California Gold Rush (1848) and the race element is erased, as it becomes an American song of loss. A very specific loss became a universal loss once race was removed.

Liquid Intelligence – Watery Ecstatic

 

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Liquid Intelligence installation: Highway Gothic

The image above shows a 16 mm film still titled Highway Gothic (2017) that Ellen Gallagher co-created with Edgar Cleijne, a Dutch photographer and film artist for a current exhibition, titled Liquid Intelligence showing now at WIELS, Contemporary Art Center, Brussels (through April 28, 2019). The exhibition reflects on watery transformations of landscapes and worlds populated with micro-organisms and submarine life forms – and the mythical stories of the African diaspora. The exhibition also presents Gallagher’s paintings, drawings and collages done over the past 20 years.

A Watery BACKSTORY

In 1986, while she was an undergraduate student in Boston, MA, Gallagher enrolled in SEA Semester out of Woods Hole, Massachusetts with a group of students to study celestial navigation and oceanography on a sailboat in the Caribbean. She chose a research project about pterapods – wing-footed snails. She discovered they were practically microscopic and that meant she was on board a sailboat collecting these creatures at night and then looking at them under a microscope in daytime and trying to make drawings. Making the drawings led to her becoming an artist. The sailboat experience took place in Martinique, and, for Gallagher, represented a coalescence of two cultures – she said it felt like a first time in Africa.

 

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Ellen Gallagher, Watery Ecstatic drawing

The image above is titled Watery Ecstatic (2001), ink, oil, watercolor, pencil and cut and pasted paper on paper, 22 x 29 ½ inches. Gallagher made this image by scratching and carving into thick paper andcompares her scratching, cutting process to 19th century scrimshaw, where whalers and sailors carved intricate patterns into bones, teeth and tusks of marine animals.

All her works are thoughtful. For Gallagher, process and concept are intertwined. She is a brilliant artist – fascinating and complex. See the WEILS Contemporary Art Center installation here.

Gallagher lives and works in Rotterdam, Netherlands and New York, US . She is represented by the Gagosian Gallery in New York, US, and Hauser & Wirth in London, UK.

 

Melissa Meyer

January 7, 2019

Drawing with Paint – Painting Collage

 

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Melissa Meyer, Summer in the City

 

Melissa Meyer is called a lyrical abstractionist. She paints free-floating, painterly ribbons of vibrant colors and shapes with oil paint thinned to the transparency of watercolor. She draws with paint.

I visited the exhibition Melissa Meyer: New Paintings (November 1-December 22, 2018) at Lennon, Weinberg Inc., 514 West 25 Street, N.Y. the week before it closed. The exhibition included large paintings, several smaller diptychs and one collage. This is Meyer’s fifth solo exhibition at Lennon, Weinberg, Inc. The paintings are bold and vibrant.

The image above, titled Summer in the City I, is oil on canvas (2018), 80 x 60 inches (image courtesy Lennon, Weinberg, Inc.).  It’s a grid with calligraphic glyphs drawn with a paintbrush with thinned oil paint in different colors. Notice there are patches of palest, almost transparent pink and yellow below the painted glyphs.

 

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Melissa Meyer, Draw the Line

The image above is titled Draw the Line (2015) oil on canvas, 72×96 inches (image courtesy Lennon, Weinstein, Inc.). Here, the background is a patchwork of warm and cool whites with a second layer of warm and cool blacks painted in a calligraphic design.

John Yau, who wrote a review for Hyperallergic, is a big fan, and has reviewed many of Meyer’s solo exhibitions at Lennon, Weinberg, Inc.  He said: “When Meyer started using oil paint that was closer in consistency to watercolor, she broke through into a territory that is now all her own.” See his review (November 25, 2018) at hyperallergic.com.

 

DIPTYCHS

 

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Melissa Meyer, Trellis Too

 

The image above is titled Trellis Too (2017), oil on canvas, 36×72 inches, diptych (image courtesy Lennon Weinberg, Inc.).

In his exhibition review (November 25, 2018), Yau said he counted at least three layers of marks compressed together in Trellis Too, saying the first layer is a patchwork of palest colors (durian yellow, cantaloupe orange and watery blue), the second layer includes glyph-like brushstrokes in different colors where the brush can be dry or full, the color can be saturated or faded, and one glyph often slides over another. The third layer is a drawing in black with a geometric web of tangled lines that hold the first two layers together. In his review, Yau writes he likes the way the painting asked him to pay attention to how the glyphs drift across the surface, as well as within the layers, how the paintings merge division and unity without favoring either because you notice similarities, changes and ruptures.

 

melissa meyer 640 rearrangement series 2 (2018) posit journal

Melissa Meyer, Rearrangement Series 2

 

I was lucky to have a conversation with Jill Weinberg Adams, the gallery director, and told her I am writing about women who do collage. She told me Meyer has a long-standing interest in collage and a unique collage esthetic. I was intrigued.

I saw two collages at the gallery – one was installed in the exhibition, and one was brought out from a closet. The first image (above) is titled Rearrangement Series 2 (2018), watercolor collage on paper, 15.75 x 12 inches (image courtesy of Lennon, Weinberg, Inc.) The second image (below) is titled Rearrangement Series 3 (2018), watercolor collage on paper (2018), 15.75 x 12 inches (image courtesy of Lennon, Weinberg, Inc.).

 

melissa meyer 640 rearrangement series 3

Melissa Meyer, Rearrangement Series 3

 

Meyer makes a connection between her approach to painting and the collage process of cutting, pasting, and arranging elements, and says she isolates elements while building the whole painting, and wants viewers to experience each part of a painting as dynamically as they experience its entirety.

SKETCHBOOKS

 

melissa meyer 640 3 sketchbooks

Melissa Meyer, 3 Sketchbooks

The image above shows 3 sketchbooks with wide format, open double-page spreads on which Meyer added watercolors and transfer prints. I learned Meyer is often at residencies and, while there, creates “Residency Sketchbooks.”  The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York reproduced one of Meyer’s sketchbooks.

At positjoiurnal.com I read Melisssa Meyer is very aware of the importance of collage in forming contemporary aesthetics, saying “As a method, collage encourages layering, shape-making and juxtaposition, all of which I apply to my work, from my paintings to multi-panel public works using expanded media (Photoshop).

View a carousel of more watercolor collages in the Rearrangement Series at positjournal.com.

 

melissa meyer 640 magazine collage

Melissa Meyer, magazine collage

 

I found the image above online. It’s dated 2016 and was included in a group exhibition in Spain.  Notice the cut paper collage on top where the paper shapes mimic the shapes of the calligraphic line.

FEMMAGE

 

melissa meyer 640 miriam schapiro

Miriam Schapiro, Miriam’s Life with Dolls

 

Picasso and Braque did not invent collage. Many women made collage before the men did – but the men got the credit.

In her mid-twenties, Meyer and fellow artist Miriam Schapiro co-authored an influential essay that linked the history of collage to traditional female hobbies like quilting and scrapbooking. They titled their essay “Waste Not Want Not: An Inquiry into What Women Saved and Assembled-FEMMAGE.” The essay was published in the magazine Heresies: Women’s Traditional Arts: The Politics of Aesthetics (Winter 1978).

Meyer said she was always interested in scrapbooks made primarily by women in the 18th century. She discovered a collage sensibility in quilts. She valued the works of mid -20thcentury abstractionists, including Lee Krasner, who reused paintings and works on paper and recycled them into her large collages on canvas.

See a facsimile of Femmage from the original Heresies publication at artcritical.com.

The image above is a collage by Miriam Schapiro, titled Miriam’s Life With Dolls (2006), fabric and collage on paper, 30×60 inches (image courtesy Flomenhaft Gallery, 547 W 27 Street, NY, NY). Schapiro (1923-2015) was a Canadian-born artist based in the U.S, an activist and pioneer of feminist art. Schapiro worked to resurrect the reputations of women artists who had been forgotten or dismissed by art historians. She was a painter, sculptor, printmaker, and a leader of the Pattern and Decoration art movement. Read more at the artstory.org.

 

Melissa Meyer, the Green Woman

The image above is titled The Green Woman, 1973, acrylic on paper with collage, 34 x 25 1/2 inches, published in Ms. Magazine (1973) and now in the permanent collection at the International Collage Center.

LARGE MURALS

Meyer received a commission to create two large murals for the Shiodome City Center in Tokyo, Japan (completed in 2003). One mural was forty feet high; the other was sixty feet long. She worked with computer technicians with Photoshop to create the macquettes for the murals, directing how image files were scanned, how glyph images were layered, how colors were made saturated or muted, and how her  painted calligraphic lines were made more or less transparent.

Meyer admitted the scale of the murals posed a unique challenge. She knew she  would have to radically enlarge the scale of her brushstrokes as she painted, and make each calligraphic shape more independent. She said the most basic challenge was to make the images work for viewers from all different vantage points. The commission got Meyer thinking about how her brushstrokes would move across the surface in the super-sized murals.

She said working with Photoshop renewed her engagement with collage and profoundly affected her sense of space and her attraction to the esthetic idea of radical discontinuity.

 

THE CHOREOGRAPHY OF BRUSHWORK

 

Melissa Meyer studio view

Melissa Meyer, studio view

 

The image above shows a view into Meyer’s studio with her paints, brushes and books. Meyer says “ when I’m painting, I work intuitively, physically, thinking about brushwork as a kind of choreography, a dance that happens in the wrists and arms as well as the whole body.

Meyer has exhibited in over forty solo shows, and has been included in group shows at the National Academy Museum and the Jewish Museum in New York.  In 1997, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY published a facsimile edition of her sketchbooks.

Meyer was awarded a Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome and has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Pollock Krasner Foundation.  Meyer’s work is included in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Jewish Museum and many other public and private collections across the United States.

Meyer has taught at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), the Art Institute of Chicago, and the School of Visual Arts in New York. She has completed public commissions in New York, Tokyo, and Shanghai, and currently has an eight by fourteen-foot ceramic mural in fabrication for the new U.S. embassy in Bishkek, Kyrgystan.

I am so pleased to write this post about an artist who has a collage esthetic and welcome your comments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anne Ryan

December 12, 2018

Printmaking and Collage

Anne Ryan (American 1889-1954) was born in Hoboken, New Jersey. She was a self-taught writer, painter and printmaker who took up her preferred medium of collage at the age of 58. She married attorney William McFadden in 1911 and had 3 children. She was legally separated from her husband in 1923. Her daughter Elizabeth McFadden is also an artist.  Ryan published her book of poems, Lost Hills in 1925, and her novel, Raquel in 1926.  She moved to Majorca in 1931 as an independent woman with her three children. Two years later she returned to the US, to Greenwich Village in downtown NYC, where her neighbors and friends were poets, actors, writers and artists associated with the New York School, including the painter Hans Hoffmann and the sculptor Tony Smith, who encouraged Ryan to paint. She opened a restaurant to support her children (and did the cooking herself). She also designed costumes and backdrops for ballet productions.

 

1 Anne Ryan 640 collage 256 at MoMA

Anne Ryan, Untitled Collage #256

 

The image above is Untitled Collage #256 (dated 1949), 6 ¾ x 5 ½ inches, made with cut and pasted colored and printed papers, cloth and string on paper, in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA, gift of Elizabeth McFadden. All of Anne Ryan’s collages are untitled (just numbered). She is recognized as an Abstract Expressionist collage artist and created about 400 tiny collages in a brief period, from 1948 to the year of her death in 1954

I first saw this collage and two other collages by Anne Ryan in the 2017 MoMA survey exhibition Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction (April 19 – August 12, 2017). The exhibition included 94 works by 53 women artists from the USA and other countries. Anne Ryan’s untitled collage #256 was one of 3 collages by the artist in the exhibition. I learned Ryan was inspired to create collage when she saw an exhibition of works by the German artist Kurt Schwitters in 1948. The signage at the MoMA exhibition said “…Ryan’s all-over compositions and linear movements of the woven, often frayed papers and fabrics evoke the gestural energy of Abstract Expressionism.”

 

PRINTMAKING

 

2 Anne Ryan 640 color woodcut Primavera copy

Anne Ryan, Primavera, Color Woodcut

 

Ryan’s first contact with the New York Avant-garde came in 1941 when she joined the Atelier 17, a famous printmaking workshop founded by the British artist Stanley William Hayter. The Atelier was first established in Paris in the 1930s and then brought to New York when Hayter had to flee the Vichy regime during the Nazi occupation of France. Ryan became an important member of the Atelier. Her preferred print media was the woodcut.

The image above is Ryan’s color woodcut on paper titled Primavera, dated 1947. The print sheet size is 14 ½ x 19 inches. The print image is 11 ½ x 15 ½ inches. This woodcut was a museum purchase and is in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC.  Many of Ryan’s woodcuts and other prints are in permanent museum collections throughout the U.S.

Ryan created about 100 prints between 1941 and 1948, including woodcuts, monotypes, and intaglio.  She did inventive things with her woodcuts, adopting the white-line woodcut technique that involved making incised lines around the shapes of a woodcut composition and adding color to the print. Ryan took the technique in a different direction by substituting black paper as her substrate, so the images were black on black.  The blue, white and yellow colors in Primavera were added with paint after the print was pulled. Ryan printed with oil-based inks, and applied oil paint to areas in the print with her fingers and small rollers that make each print unique. She layered thick pigments interspersed with thin glazes to create varied surfaces and textures. Ryan worked with linear, semi-abstract figure images. Her subjects included still life, bathers, reclining nudes, and juggling clowns.

COLLAGE

 

3 Anne Ryan 640 collage #57 at the MET

Anne Ryan, Untitled Collage #57

 

From 1948 to her death in 1954, Ryan created about four hundred tiny collages with fabric, found media and hand-made papers. The image above is an untitled collage (#57), dated ca. 1950, 6 ½ x 5 1/8 inches, made with cut and pasted fabrics, papers and bamboo on paper. He design is in an oval shape, mounted on textured, white handmade paper. The oval is made with rectangles in tones of red, pink, rose, white, grey, black and taupe. This collage was one of twenty-three (23) works included in the exhibition The Prismatic Eye: Collages by Anne Ryan, 1948-54 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (June 4-September 6, 2010). Ryan’s daughter Elizabeth McFadden said her mother was enthralled with the way Schwitters (1887-1948) combined papers, saying: “What he could do in such a small space…How he transformed bits of paper and scraps of cloth!”…”

McFadden also said her mother made her first collages the same day she saw the Schwitters exhibition: “Mother went from one collage to another in a passion of delight…We went home and before she put water on for supper, she was at her work table making collages.”

 

4 Anne Ryan 640 collage #8 Schwitters

Anne Ryan, Untitled Collage #8

 

The image above is an Untitled collage (#8), not dated, made with paper and chalk on paperboard, mounted on paperboard, 5 ¾ x 4 ½ inches. Collage #8 is in the permanent collection at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC, gift of Elizabeth McFadden.

With Collage #8 you see how Ryan imitated Schwitters by including snippets of printed text in her work. #8 is not dated, but it probably was created at the beginning of Ryan’s collage practice. The white line drawing may be a woodcut print remnant. Notice the tiny paper triangle with a photo image of airplanes. Notice the soft, torn edges of the background papers, layered creamy white on red brown on white. The sense of texture is yummy. I included this image to show Schwitter’s early influence, but also show Ryan was moving toward working with hand-made papers and fabric. According to Elizabeth McFadden, her mother collected fabrics and preferred them worn, even tattered or frayed, combining fabrics with cardboard, foil, or cellophane to create, tiny textured abstract arrangements. Ryan rarely painted or made marks on the surfaces of her papers or fabric.

 

5 Anne Ryan 640 collage #538 Hirschhorn

Anne Ryan, Untitled Collage #538

 

Ryan created collages arranged in a tight geometric grid design. The image above is Untitled #538 (1953) and part of the permanent collection at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC. The beautiful textured papers look like a quilt with pieces stitched together and shows a composition in soft greys, black and white, tan and rosy brown.

 

6 Anne Ryan 640 collage #175 paper & netting

Anne Ryan, Untitled Collage #175

 

The image above is Untitled #175. It includes overlapping fabrics and papers, including silk, netting, handmade rag paper and Japanese rice papers. FYI: Ryan used hand made papers created by Douglass Howell, an important pioneer in papermaking.  Many artists, including Joan Miro, Stanley William Hayter, Jasper Johns, and Jackson Pollock also worked with Howell’s beautiful papers for printing, collage, drawing and watercolor. Ryan’s collages are exquisite because she worked with exquisite media.

 

7 Anne Ryan 640 collage #319 at MET

Anne Ryan, Untitled Collage #319

 

The image above is Untitled #319, dated 1949, made with a multitude of cut and torn papers, fabrics, gold foil and bast fiber pasted on paper, mounted on black paper, 7 ¾ x 6 ¾ inches. Collection: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, gift of Elizabeth McFadden. It’s another small work with great dynamic energy.

 

8 Anne Ryan 640 collage #164

Anne Ryan, Untitled Collage #164

 

The image above is Untitled #164 (1951), made with cut and pasted colored and painted papers and cloth on paper, 4 x 3 ¾ inches, collection: the Museum of Modern Art, New York, gift of Elizabeth McFadden.  This shows a design with textured papers and linen mesh fabric pieces, cut into triangles and squares that are are glued on a natural white textured paper background. I like the simple arrangement and frayed edges of the fabric pieces and the play of monochromatic tones in this collage.

 

9 Anne Ryan 640 collage #353 at MoMA

Anne Ryan, Untitled Collage #353

 

The image above is Untitled #353 (1949), made with cut and pasted colored paper, cloth and string on paper, 7 ½ x 6 7/8 inches, collection: The Museum of Modern Art, gift of Elizabeth McFadden.

This collage was included in the 2017 MoMA survey exhibition Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction (April 19-Auugst 13, 2017). MoMA has 4 Anne Ryan collages in its permanent collection and showed #353 with 2 other collages by her. I wrote 3 posts about the exhibition and my third post opens with this collage image. I  included a link to a NY Times review by Holland Cotter that showed the same Ryan collage. He challenged MoMA to reorganize their permanent collection galleries that draw the largest crowds and “put Anne Ryan next to Kurt Schwitters and Jackson Pollock to see how that shakes out, historically and atmospherically…” I agree.

Ryan’s resume is stellar, but we don’t see much of her work. In the 1950s her collages were included in the Whitney Museum of American Art Annuals and Biennials in NYC (1951, 1953 and 1955).

She was included in the groundbreaking 1951 Ninth Street Show in NY (May 21-June 10, 1951). Her cohort were the New York avant-garde, known as the New York School, including Elaine and Willem deKooning, Helen Frankenthaler, Robert Goodnough, Philip Guston, Grace Hartigan, Lee Krasner, Joan Mitchell, Robert Motherwell, Jackson Pollock, Robert Rauschenberg, David Smith, Franz Kline and Hans Hoffmann.

Ryan’s works can be seen in many group exhibitions organized by the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, 100 Eleventh Avenue, New York. She is included in his roster of 20thand 21stcentury American artists.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I was surprised – and happy – when I saw Ryan’s 3 collages side by side in the survey exhibition at MoMA. I have to ask myself why I didn’t I know about her work, and why all the online reviews always referenced Kurt Schwitters’ influence.  I think Ryan was an original. Artists and the art world acknowledged her when she was alive, but her reputation was eclipsed after her death in 1954. The small size of her work was an important factor. Small didn’t count.

I’m glad the curators for Making Space scoured the MoMA collections and found 3 Ryan collages to include in the survey show. I saw Ryan’s works in the same setting with grand paintings by Agnes Martin, Helen Frankenthaler, Lee Krasner, and Yayoi Kusama. I am inspired by Anne Ryan’s dedication to collage. The number of works she created and the quality of each one is an amazing testament to her commitment and creative genius. I agree with Holland Cotter – Ryan’s works need to be seen in the public galleries and not hidden away.

Betye Saar

November 21, 2018

 

1st image 640 Betye Saar Lost Innocence

Betye Saar, A Loss of Innocence

The image above is an installation piece by Betye Saar (American, born 1926) titled “A Loss of Innocence” (1998). It’s a chair and dress, 50x12x12 inches. The image is included in a Hyperallergic review of her exhibition STILL TICKIN: Six Decades of Betye Saar’s Personal, Political and Mystical Art at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (Jan 30-May 1, 2016). A Loss of Innocence includes a delicate white dress with short, capped sleeves on a wood hanger suspended from a wire directly above a tiny doll-size chair sitting on a low wood pedestal. The chair is a tiny shrine. The dress cast two shadows that spread from the floor to the walls. One shadow looks eerily like a lynched body. The Scottsdale Museum says “There is a touch of alchemy to Betye Saar’s artwork: transforming the simple and mundane into powerful art.” Saar’s art tackles issues of spirituality, race, equality, family relationships and autobiography. Every work is poignant, evocative and emotional.

Betye Saar was born in Los Angeles, CA in 1926. She graduated from UCLA in 1947 with a B.A. degree in design and began her work in the visual arts as a graphic designer and costume maker — a trade that is deeply personal to her because her mother was a seamstress. She continued graduate studies, working toward a career in teaching design. She took an elective course in printmaking that allowed her to segue from design into fine arts. She began making politically themed artwork after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Watts Riots. Saar taught art in Los Angeles at UCLA and the Otis Art Institute. Saar’s works are included in the permanent collections in museums worldwide, including 3 works in the collection at the Whitney Museum of American Art in NY. Saar married and raised 3 daughters. Saar received two National Endowment for the Arts Awards, in 1974 and 1984. In 2008, she was recognized for her career in art and community activism and awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award in Fine Arts from the Congressional Black Caucus.

Betye Saar lives and works in Los Angeles, CA.

 

2nd image 640 betye saar aunt jemima

Betye Saar, The Liberation of Aunt Jemima

In 1967 Saar saw an assemblage by Joseph Cornell at the Pasadena (CA) Art Museum and was inspired to make art out of all the bits and pieces of her own life. She began making assemblages in 1967. She had been collecting images and objects since childhood. She came from a family of collectors. In the 1960s, Saar began collecting images of Aunt Jemima, Uncle Tom, Little Black Sambo and other stereotyped African-American figures from advertising during the Jim Crow era.

The image above is titled The Liberation of Aunt Jemima (1972). It’s the first piece Saar made that was politically explicit. Saar said: “My work started to become politicized after the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. But The Liberation of Aunt Jemima, which I made in 1972, was the first piece that was politically explicit.There was a community center in Berkeley, on the edge of Black Panther territory in Oakland, called the Rainbow Sign. They issued an open invitation to black artists to be in a show about black heroes, so I decided to make a black heroine.” Read about the Rainbow Sign invitational here. She added: “For many years, I had collected derogatory images: postcards, a cigar-box label, an ad for beans, Darkie toothpaste. I found a little Aunt Jemima mammy figure, a caricature of a black slave, like those later used to advertise pancakes. Saar added: “She had a broom in one hand. I gave her a rifle. In front of her, I placed a little postcard, of a mammy with a mulatto child, which is another way black women were exploited during slavery.I used the derogatory image to empower the black woman by making her a revolutionary, like she was rebelling against her past enslavement.When my work was included in the exhibition ‘WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution’, at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles in 2007, the activist and academic Angela Davis gave a talk in which she said the black women’s movement started with my work The Liberation of Aunt Jemima. That was a real thrill.”

In American popular culture the mammy figure was a depiction of servility. Saar turned her Aunt Jemima into a warrior, brandishing weapons, contending with injustice, facing the darkest chapters of American history. The Liberation of Aunt Jemima is in the permanent collection of the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. It’s Saar’s  most iconic piece. Photo: Benjamin Blackwell, courtesy of the artist and Roberts & Tilton, LA, CA.  Read more about how Betye Saar transformed the Aunt Jemima image into a symbol of black power in an artsy.net review here.

 

3rd image 640 betye saar in 1970

Betye Saar in 1970

The image above shows a young Betye Saar in 1970 in a room she used as an art studio.

 

4th image 640 betye saar keeping it clean

Exhibition installation: Keeping It Clean

The image above is an installation view of the exhibition Keeping It Clean at the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles (May 28-August 20, 2017). The solo show presented a mix of new and historic works that included Saar’s ongoing series of washboard assemblage sculptures, begun in the late 1990s.

In a review in the contemporary art magazine Art and Cake (June 28, 2017), Shana Nys Dambrot wrote: The washboard is a perfect object for Saar’s creative enterprise, whose particular magic has been the fusion of aesthetic, narrative, politics, and innovation into singular objects that triumph at all their tasks in art and in society.” In Saar’s own words, the new pieces are intended as reminders “that America has not yet cleaned up her act.”

Betye Saar also said: “I wanted to do an exhibition of my washboards because they are intimate and hands-on…It’s a body of work that I am still making, and the new works are inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. People think racism happens everywhere else, but racism still exists in Los Angeles.”

 

5th image 640 betye saar mother and children

Betye Saar, Mother and Children in Blue

The image above is titled Mother and Children in Blue (1998), watercolor and mixed media collage on paper, 8 5/8 x 6 ½ inches, permanent collection at the Whitney Museum of American Art, NY – purchased with funds from the Drawing Committee.

 

6th image 640 betye saar locksmith

Betye Saar, Locksmith

The image above is titled Locksmith (2018), Mixed Media assemblage with metal frame, antique door locks, metal keys and vintage photograph, 14 x 11 ¾  inches.

 

7th image 640 betye saar uneasy dancer

Betye Saar, Uneasy Dancer

The image above is titled Uneasy Dancer – Sock it to “Em (2011). It’s a red leather boxing glove with a watch on the wrist band and a mammy figure in a red dress tucked inside on top. The time on the watch is stopped at 5 minutes after 5.  “Uneasy Dancer” is an expression Betye Saar has used to define both herself and her artistic practice. I found this image in a review for Saar’s first exhibition in Milan, Italy installed at Fondazione Prada (15 Sep 2016 – 08 Jan 2017).  Read more here.

 

8th image 640 betye saar indigo illusions

Betye Saar, Indigo Illusions

The image above is titled Indigo Illusions (1991), mixed media assemblage with neon. This work was included in an exhibition titled “Betye Saar: Something Blue” at Roberts Projects in Los Angeles (Oct 27-Dec 15, 2018). All the works were made between 1983 and 2018 and all feature the color blue. Roberts Projects is Betye Saar’s gallery in CA and the exhibition was organized to show how she uses blue as a means to explore concepts of magic, voodoo and the occult.

 

9th image 640 betye saar photo for Getty

Betye Saar in 2016

The image above is dated 2016 and shows Betye Saar in her studio with all her stuff. Photo: Ashley Walker, courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles.

The Getty Research Institute (GRI) in Los Angeles is launching an African-American Art History initiative and has acquired the archive of works by Betye Saar as a first step. The GRI will help other museums preserve and digitize their own archives, and is working with the Studio Museum in Harlem, the California African American Museum, Art + Practice in Los Angeles, and Spelman College in Atlanta on this project.

 

NEWS

The Brooklyn Museum has installed Saar’s works in an exhibition titled Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power (through February 3, 2019).  Saar also has a solo show titled Keepin’ It Clean at the New York Historical Society (November 12, 2018-May 27, 2019).

In a recent interview for the Los Angeles Times, Betye Saar said: “When you’re 92, it takes a lot to get you excited. I paid my dues, and now I’m reaping the rewards…I’m very happy that anybody can go to the Getty Research Institute to discover my work, not just the art community. It’s my contribution.

 

I am writing a book about women artists who create with collage, assemblage, photo collage and/or installation art. One chapter will be devoted to the artist Betye Saar. Please contact me if you have spoken with her – and thank you.