About Ivan Chermayeff
April 30, 2014
ABOUT FACE – Amazing Unique Collage and Assemblage Sculpture
Collage enthusiasts – if you want to see important contemporary and historic collage, and also want to see assemblage and mixed media installation, go to the Pavel Zoubok Gallery in Chelsea, 531 West 26 Street, NYC. . Every month the gallery showcases artists who explore and extend the boundaries of these media. See more information about the gallery here.
I went to the gallery to see collages by Ivan Chermayeff. I’ve been a fan of this artist’s work for years. The exhibition (March 20-April 19, 2014) also included his wood assemblage. My image above shows the gallery installation of 3 Chermayeff wood sculptures on white pedestals. It also shows framed collage portraits installed on the rear wall.
This is collage sculpture. Notice the work is assembled with pieces of found, carved and painted wood. Chermayeff juxtaposes old materials and objects like toys, tools, river stones, sandpaper, and brushes to create heads and torsos. Each sculpture (like each collage) has a unique personality. Notice the 2 figures and face are embellished with painted wood in red, white and blue for eyes, noses, lips, ears, hats and anatomical parts. Sorry you can’t walk around the sculpture to see them in person.
I love the tall sculpture on the left in the photo. He has a protruding wood nose that reminds me of a handle on a big coffee mug. His lips are pressed together, and almost touching his nose. You can read whatever you like into his expression. That’s what makes the sculpture so interesting.
DowntownMagazineNYC reviewed the exhibition that showcased works by Ivan Chermayeff (b 1931, London, UK) and photocollage by Witold Gordon (b. Warsaw, Poland, 1885-1968). In the review, Xavi Ocana wrote (March 20, 2014): Chermayeff has the ability to take the ordinary and turn it into the extraordinary, a perfect equation of the playful plus the poetic. Read the exhibition review here.
The image above is titled BOY WITH SAM’S HAND, collage, 30×22 (1999). Notice the figure is made from an old corrugated cardboard box that is opened flat. Chermayeff kept the original cancelled stamps and brown tape on the cardboard. The red stamps are now Sam’s eyes. One of the blue mailing labels is his nose. There’s a black line in exactly the right place for a mouth. Chermayeff added cut black paper for shoulders, and pink semi-circles for ears. Notice the painted child’s handprint. That must be Sam’s “signature.”
SMILE and LOOK CLOSE
The image above is titled GIRL (2000), collage, 14 x 11 inches. It’s so simple and so very clever and witty. The shapes are dots, semi-circles and rectangles. The girl’s face is a grey paper rectangle and her eyes are round grey dots. See the gold and blue cut papers – semi-circles that are ears and a hat.
Notice her blue dress. It’s the same crayon blue paper as the “hat” and reveals a photo of deep cleavage showing through the V neckline in the dress. What a girl! The best part – her “mouth” is actually a photo of an eyelash. At first glance, you see a curved black line. It’s a happy-face smile. Then you notice it’s a fringe of eyelash in a closed eye. Very demure. How witty! My reaction: it’s a Mona Lisa smile. What is she hiding?
He collects garbage like crazy
In interviews, Chermayeff admits he has drawers full of old envelopes and postage stamps, and recycles gloves people drop and leave behind. His approach to collage is spontaneous. He says. “What I’m playing with is making new visual connections. That’s what my collages are all about.” Chermayeff’s people are made from letterheads and labels, pebbles and Polaroid prints and stuff from the office recycling bin. The craftsmanship is meticulous, pristine and clean. They are not garbage.
The image above is titled Red Talker, collage, 15×11 inches, 1995. Notice the colors: black, white, red and a peachy-tan. The portrait is all torn and cut papers in geometric shapes: squares, rectangles, circles and triangles. The portrait is facing right, and wears a hat. He has a large white dot for an eye.
Notice some papers have tiny punched holes and show the white through. One collage paper is a printed bullseye with black concentric circles on a peachy tan background. There are multiple tiny holes punched in a horizontal line marching across the bullseye to meet a larger white dot in the outer black circle. See more punched holes in the red paper rectangle touching the bullseye paper. Notice the mouth is a torn red and white business form – probably a mailing label.
Did You Know?
Ivan Chermayeff is world famous as a designer and cofounder (1957) of the firm Chermayeff & Geismar, that produced the iconic logos we all know: NBC, PBS, CBS, Mobile Oil, Chase Manhattan Bank, National Geographic, the Museum of Modern Art and more. He graduated from Yale University and began his career designing book covers and album covers. He is most famous for his logos, but also does collage and has exhibited in museums and galleries all over the world.
The image above is the PBS logo (Public Broadcasting System) the firm designed in 1983. Image: courtesy Pinterest
According to artsy.net, Chermayeff (born 1932, London, UK) is an artist who rotates through multiple media. His strength as a designer and illustrator are equally present in his collage and printmaking media. They say, the works are ingenious and complex even though they look simple. Read more here.
Ivan Chermayeff says “collages make it possible for everything to be something else.” That’s the essence of our contemporary lives.
I talked to Pavel Zoubok at the gallery and learned so much about the artist and the art works. It was a great opportunity to speak with an expert. Zoubok is a passionate advocate for collage and has devoted his career to promoting this genre. Here’s a quote: Zoubok says we live in a cut and paste world. Isn’t that the essence of contemporary life? That is the essence of collage. Zoubok also believes collage is manifest in the digital culture that is transforming our society. I absolutely agree.
Tell me what you think.