I used the phrase “Collage Artist Extraordinaire” to describe Ivan Chermayeff in my review of the exhibition ABOUT FACES (March 20-April 19, 2014) at the Pavel Zoubok Gallery at 531 West 26 Street, in NYC. Read it here.
Pavel Zoubok says: no art form expresses the character of the twentieth century and the contemporary moment with greater clarity and immediacy than the art of collage. The Gallery is the place to go if you are a fan. The exhibition calendar includes both historic and contemporary collage artists. Read more here.
I’ve been a fan of Ivan Chermayeff’s collages for years and years, but only saw reproduction in art magazines. ABOUT FACES included collage and assemblage (sculpture). Each wood assemblage included found wood and objects like toys, tools, river stones, sandpaper, and/or brushes. Two works included a found glove that became a face portrait.
My photo (above) shows the gallery installation with 3 wood assemblages by Ivan Chermayeff. Titles are: (left) Janus Head with Canoe Hat, (center) Portrait with Pincushion Cap, and (right) Young Person with Hairless Brush Head. I’ve included solo images (two views) for each sculpture below. All images are courtesy the Pavel Zoubok Gallery. Sculpture should be seen in person, where you can walk around and see different views. The front and back are sometimes very different in Chermayeff’s assemblage.
The image (above) is titled Janus Head with Canoe Hat (2000-2005), mixed-media assemblage, 23 ½ x 8 ½ x 8 ½ inches. Click on the image and enlarge it to see more detail. Look at the nose. I think it looks like the handle on a coffee mug, big enough for you to put your hand through. Notice the hat is actually a little carved wood canoe. Notice the lips on the mouth are wood and painted red. Look at his expression. I think he looks grumpy or is sulking. Read whatever you like into his expression.
The image (below) is a profile view of the same sculpture, and, when you look up, you see the bottom of the canoe on his head. I think the wavy blue painted wood on the side is shaped like a child’s drawing of waves in the ocean. You don’t see the waves in the image above, but you can see the shape better in the image below.
What’s in a name?
I checked Wikipedia for information about Janus – the ancient Roman god of doors, passages, endings and times (representing war and peace). FYI: The month of January is named for Janus. Janus is usually represented with two faces. I wonder if Chermayeff named his wood sculpture Janus because the sculpture includes part of an old wood door. Read more about the god Janus here.
He collects garbage like crazy.
I include a collage (above) titled Red Talker, 15×11 inches (1995). Chermayeff says he collects garbage like crazy. According to the Gallery press release, his collages include the stuff of everyday life: scraps of paper, stamped envelopes, tickets, photographs and other discarded oddments that become juxtaposed compositions of color and form. Chermayeff says: “A little spot, whether a postage stamp, a graphic mark, a letter of the alphabet, a splash of color becomes a nose, an eye or a mouth. In the right place, more or less, it becomes a face…that is both recognizable and rewarding. When a face is there, it has its own reality, whether recognized or not, much like strangers passing in the street.” Read Gallery comments here.
Notice the colors in Red Talker: black, white, red and a peachy-tan. The portrait is all torn and cut papers in geometric shapes: squares, rectangles, circles and triangles. He’s facing right, and wears a hat. He has a large white dot for an eye. His mouth is a torn red and white address sticker. See more gallery images here.
The image (below) is a front-facing view of Chermayeff’s mixed media assemblage titled Portrait with Pincushion Cap (2000-2005), 13 x 8 ½ x 3 inches. Notice the deep grain in the wood and how the artist used smooth round white river stones for eyes. The stones are different sizes. The larger one faces vertical and the smaller one faces horizontal. The mouth is wood painted red. Ears appear on the side of the rectangular head as semi circles painted black. The pincushion cap (painted silver and blue) is another toy wood canoe sitting across the top of his head.
The image (below) is the rear view of Portrait with Pincushion Cap. Click on the image to enlarge it. Notice the rough surface texture in the wood in this view. There’s a deep recess gouged into the wood. I see a different face. The eyes are still white river stones, but they look tiny. The mouth is part of a negative space so it looks like his mouth is open. The “nose” is a rosy red blobby shape stuck into the gouged surface. The ears are gone, replaced with a solid black band of wood with rounded ends and now looks like a hat. The toy wood canoe (pincushion) sits on top. I think he looks like a drunken Russian sailor or an old Viking. It’s another Janus with two faces.
Two images (below) are front and side views of the mixed media assemblage titled Young Person with Hairless Brush Head, 24 x 15 ½ x 4 ½ inches (2000-2005). Notice Chermayeff added wood dowels for this portrait’s 2 arms. The Head is an irregular shaped rectangle. It’s an old hairless brush with 27 holes in 3 vertical rows. There’s a painted red wood dowel planted across the top of his head and a painted red block projecting between his legs. The wood figure looks like he’s wearing cut-off pants. His feet are thin black metal rods that run down to a square metal base. What do you see? I see a portrait of a young boy. Do you think the sculpture is innocent and childlike? I think maybe not.
Ivan Chermayeff’s fine art collages and assemblage sculptures have been exhibited throughout the United States and internationally. His next exhibition will be in the UK. He is best known as a designer and illustrator. With Tom Geismar, he founded the design firm Chermayeff & Geismar (1957), and the logos they’ve designed are recognized worldwide.
FINAL THOUGHTS: See it in Person
In my previous post, I wrote you have to see Chermayeff’s assemblage sculpture in person and walk around to view the work from every angle. I hope the additional images here gave you more information. Please add your comments below. Do you like this artist’s mixed media assemblage? Do you prefer the collages? Do you think assemblage is 3D collage?