Appropriation is a very useful concept in contemporary art and essential to appreciating contemporary collage art.

 

I like to make funky figure collages with papers and text cut and pasted from magazines like W, Elle. Vogue, and ArtForum. I thumb through the magazines and tear out pages when the right image strikes. Everything becomes a magazine mash-up.

 

nancy nikkal, sex celebrity, collage 2016

 

The image nearby is my collage titled Sex Celebrity. This work is part of a new series with female images done in collage with various cut and pasted papers. Some of the papers are straight out of the magazine. Some are painted with acrylic. Some papers are purchased in an arts and crafts store. I like to mix and match and create works that combine image, color, pattern and texture. Most of all, I am fascinated by celebrity culture and Pop Art. My goal is to create images that are edgy, sexy and provocative.

 

The image you see is a collage on a 12×16 inch panel showing two x two females. Everything is an image: some more, some less real. The colors in this collage are creamy white, grey-black, green and tiny touches of pale blue and red.

 

The large female image is a close-up of a face, eyes closed as if in a swoon. She seems ensconced in a reverie in a garden setting, surrounded by green. She’s a beauty. Her eyes are decorated and glittery. There’s a large, expensive diamond jewel floating near her nose. The jewel looks like a delicate flower or a garden bug. I’ve seen expensive jewels in fashion magazines. They’re highly crafted with multiple stones. A beautiful woman deserves a beautiful diamond. I embellished the image, but it’s straight out of the magazine.

The smaller female image in my collage is a figure in a couturier outfit and her breasts are exposed. You see a lot of that in the fashion magazines currently. She’s standing in front of the large face image. There’s a third image in black and white located on the lower left side. It may be a print by Pablo Picasso torn from an art magazine. I took it because it was the right size and in black and white. There’s a fourth image on the right side that’s a face and facing left. If you look carefully, you can see eyes, eyebrows and hair. The face is made with striped green paper. I like stripes. I like to combine abstraction, reality and fantasy.

 

I cut and pasted all the papers. There is no actual glitter and no jewel – just papers to simulate jewels and glitter.

 

Appropriation in Art

I recommend the book titled Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon. It’s a little book with a lot of big ideas. The author says: remix and reimagine to discover your true path. It sounds like collage.

Appropriation in art is defined as the act of using pre-existing objects or images with little or no transformation applied to them. The artist’s job is to decide how much image transformation is necessary. Some artists feel guilty for stealing an image. I’m not sure that’s true for everyone. There is so much to steal now. Images are everywhere. I think it’s how you use them that makes a difference.

 

nancy nikkal, flat chested, collage 2017

The image nearby is a magazine collage I created on a 14×11 inch paper substrate. I gave it the title FlatChested. I think she is. She’s high fashion and very thin. The image is inspired by the concept Exquisite Corpse where the parts don’t have to match. Each of the 3 parts comes from a different magazine page. I liked the pink background in the middle section and the model’s long, graceful hand. Her eyes were made up with glitter and that was also appealing. I liked the wild, dark hair in the top section that has a mustard yellow background. I liked the pattern where the hair is separated by a part in the middle. The width worked well with the cut-off hat in the pink section. I liked the dot patterns in the black and white bottom section. Everything worked well. I didn’t have to add glitter because the model already had glittery eye makeup. I changed her mouth and shortened her torso. Colors are gold, pink, black and white. Her skin color is caramel brown. The papers come from W magazine. There are only 4 pieces in this collage –  three horizontal rows of cut and pasted magazine papers and a mouth from a model image in black and white (from the same magazine).

 

 

My students often ask me about copyright infringement and appropriation. One student this winter had to overcome – and actually did overcome – her resistance to appropriating magazine images. I persuaded her. We talked about it all through the winter term at the Pelham Art Center where I teach contemporary collage to adults. Her career is print publishing so I understand her resistance to appropriating images. I really like her 3 portrait images. Each one is very different. See them below.

 

student portrait collage with papers & glitter

 

The image nearby is the 1st portrait collage Ilene created in class. Her papers included stamped drawing paper (dots) for the face, chevron-striped paper for the dress, decorated papers from magazines and painted paper for hair, eyes, nose and mouth. The collage is on 14″x11″ Bristol paper (substrate). Ilene spent a lot of time cutting papers for the hair, eyes and mouth. Notice one eye is light brown and the other eye is a black and white pattern. Ilene added green glitter eye makeup last. Her background is grey magazine paper with a printed gallery name as vertical text. I remember Ilene asked me if she should cut, cover or leave the vertical text. I said yes – leave it in – it’s not too prominent. Ilene’s 1st collage has a lot of directional movement with pattern and cut papers. The grey dots in the face are tilting down right. The vertical text is parallel to the right edge.

 

 

 

student collage, assorted papers & glitter, 2017

 

The image nearby is the 2nd portrait collage Ilene created in class. It’s much more abstract and the eyes, mouth, chin and hair are made with cut triangle papers. The papers come from magazine pages but do not show a model’s image. There’s a lot of dynamic energy in the way Ilene placed the cut papers. Notice some of the magazine papers are solid black, beige, yellow, blue and magenta red. Notice a few of the cut papers have stripes and crosshatched line drawing that adds texture. I love the spaces around the triangles. Ilene used a minimum number of papers but still gave us a sense of modeling the shape of a face. Notice the shading in the red papers for the lips. The way Ilene cut the papers gives a sense of volume. Notice the nose and tiny hands (each within a contrasting triangle) are actual magazine images – the only ones in this collage. Hooray for appropriation! I believe Ilene made the hands and nose small to make them less obvious as swiped magazine images. Notice the magenta-red lips are larger than either hand.

 

 

student collage, exquisite corpse portrait, 2017

 

The image nearby is the 3rd portrait collage Ilene created in class based on the concept Exquisite Corpse. I believe I made my collage FlatChested (above) during the class to demonstrate how to cut magazine papers in angled, horizontal strips, using different models for each piece. Ilene’s portrait includes a woman’s eyes, ears and hairline on top and a man’s mouth, chin and neck below. She included a black round hat for the top strip in the collage, and found decorated papers in swirly patterns and bright colors for the bottom strip. I know she loves this portrait collage. I really like the contrast of one face in color and another face in black & white, and really like that one half of the face is male and the other half is female. Ilene selected images with care so that the expressions in the eyes and mouth co-mingle.

 

 

 

EXQUISITE CORPSE at PINTEREST

See 72 pins (images) for the Exquisite Corpse at my Pinterest site. Some of the images are historic examples. My students love Exquisite corpse as a class project and I set up Pinterest boards so they can check out images online. Read more about the Exquisite corpse here.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Today, appropriating and remixing images and media is common practice for visual, audio, and performing artists. Appropriation is a strategy. Visual artists would not be able to create the mash-up of  images we create without all the images online and in magazines. They’re available, plentiful and we find them. Please share your thoughts. Do you swipe images and use them in collage? Do you re-mix other media? Tell me if you love the Exquisite Corpse.

Thanks for sharing – Nancy

 

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Pancho Villa Dead and Alive

My favorite work by Robert Motherwell is titled Pancho Villa Dead and Alive (1943).

I love the work for the color, texture, painterly surface, the look of the layered papers, and Motherwell’s exuberant approach to his collage practice.  It is mixed media to the max. It looks so contemporary.

What a treat to see this and other works by this artist when I entered the Thannheiser Galleries at the Guggenheim Museum  (through January 5, 2014) at 1071 Fifth Avenue at 89th Street, NY.

I did not expect to see so many – 50 plus collages and related drawings in ink and paint from the period 1943-1951. I did not know Motherwell created that many works in collage media.  Every work is large in scale (especially for collage and drawing).

Robert Motherwell, Pancho Villa Dead and Alive, 1943, Museum of Modern Art/Dedalus Foundation, Inc./VAGA

Pancho Villa Dead and Alive was created with cut and pasted papers, ink and wood veneer on paper board (28 x 35 7/8 inches). Some papers are printed and embellished with more paint. The paints include oil and gouache (opaque watercolors).

Motherwell layered painted papers in the same color family (see the light blue section in the lower center part of the collage). Notice the paint drips.

Motherwell painted his papers in his favorite colors: black and white, ocher and pale blue.

He used flat light blue paint and faded pink paint for his background and some of the overpainted papers.

He painted red and black splotches and (faded) red and blue drips behind the child-like stick figures that imply two bodies (dead and alive) riddled with bullet holes.

Motherwell liked to work with fine-art drawing papers for their matte appearance and subtle color variations. He liked commercial coated papers, especially in bright colors, because they reminded him of the colors he saw in Mexico (during a 6 month stay with artist Roberto Matta).

Robert Motherwell, View from a High Tower (1944-45), Private Collection/Dedalus Foundation, Inc./VAGA

View from a High Tower (above) was completed in 1944-45. It is 29 x 29 inches, tempera, oil, ink, pastel and pasted wood veneer, drawing paper, Japanese paper and printed map on paperboard (private collection).

I recommend the exhibition catalog for the four excellent essays. The first essay is about Motherwell’s early career with Peggy Guggenheim (titled The Theorist and the Gallerist, written by exhibition curator Susan Davidson). Another essay is about Motherwell’s  life-long fascination with themes of violence, revolution and death (titled Bloodstains and Bullet Holes, by Megan M. Fontanella). The third essay is about how he stretched the boundaries and the possibilities of paper as a vehicle for visual ideas (titled  Motherwell’s Risk, by Brandon Taylor). The last essay is about his materials (titled Motherwell’s Materials in the 1940s, by Jeffrey Warda).

Jeffrey Warda’s essay (page 56) mentions that all the commercial papers Motherwell used faded and the strong pink is now a pale flesh tone.

Robert Motherwell, Jeune Fille (1944) private collection/Dedalue Foundation, Inc./VAGA

Robert Motherwell, Jeune Fille (1944) Private Collection/Dedalus Foundation, Inc./VAGA

Holland Cotter wrote a review for the NY Times (A Painter’s Cut-and-Paste Prequel: Robert Motherwell Early Collages at the Guggenheim, Dec. 3, 2013).

Cotter’s final paragraph asks slyly if Motherwell relinquished his role as sole creator of his work (a defining feature of Abstract Expressionism) because gravity, chemistry and light deserve equal billing as collaborators since the works have changed color, texture and form. My comment: Change is good.

Embellish the Media

I love how Motherwell painted over his media, used patterned papers, painted onto the papers, painted out papers, added lines, dots, drips and splotches. The surface is dense and yet there is incredible freedom in the process, and so much energy in the execution. I love how he tore off layers of papers to expose raw paper surfaces below, and contrasted hard-edge cut papers with soft-edge torn papers.

The image above is titled Jeune Fille (1944). It’s 24 x 19.5 inches, oil, ink, gouache, pasted drawing paper, colored paper, Japanese paper, German decorative paper and fabric on canvas board (private collection).

Motherwell was an explorer – adventurous and exuberant in his practice. Everything in the exhibition looks cutting-edge and even edgy. That is why this show is so important.

Read my comments (below) on how Motherwell got the exhibition that launched his career in 1943 – see FINAL THOUGHTS – Who you know…

Robert Motherwell, 9th Street Exhibition (1951) Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph L. Tucker, 1963, Dedalus Foundation, Inc./VAGA

Robert Motherwell, 9th Street Exhibition (1951) Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph L. Tucker, 1963, Dedalus Foundation, Inc./VAGA

Motherwell was a scholar and a founder member (who wrote about) the Abstract Expressionist movement of the 1940s – also known as the New York School – and (no surprise!) Motherwell’s collages are filled with the gestural energy prerequisite for Ab-Ex painters.

Read more about Abstract Expressionism at the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History (Metropolitan Museum of Art) website.

The image above is titled 9th Street Exhibition (1951). It is pasted papers with gouache and ink on paper, Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, Donazione/Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph L. Tucker, 1963.

Read an excellent overview of Motherwell’s life and career (with images and links) at Wikipedia.

Also see the the humorous (and informed) post  about the Motherwell/Guggenheim exhibition (11/13/13) by Ariel at Collage Volupte called How Robert Motherwell Lost His Dada Cred – its about Motherwell’s connection to Dadaism and Surrealism.

At the end of the post, Ariel writes about an old parlor game called Exquisite Corpse – played by Dadaist poets and visual artists in Europe in the period between World War I and World War II.

Motherwell was fascinated with dada, Surrealism, and automatic drawing.

FYI: Roberto Matta introduced Motherwell to a version of the exquisite corpse game at his NY salon. Motherwell attended the salons regularly in the early 1940s. Read more about the history of the Exquisite Corpse.

FYI: As a game, the exquisite corpse can be played by poets or visual artists. Players add words or images (drawings or collages) in turn. The first player writes or draws, folds the paper and passes it on to the next player. The final image or poem is supposed to be a surprise. Usually there are three or four players but, depending on how the paper is folded, the number can be more or fewer players.

FYI: Pancho Villa is an historic Mexican Revolutionary general, celebrated for his extraordinary feats in battles in the Mexican War for Independence. He was never defeated. He was assassinated in 1923 when he tried to run for political office in Mexico. Many streets throughout Mexico are named for him.

WILL YOU BE IN NEW YORK FOR CHRISTMAS?

Try to see Robert Motherwell: Early Collages at the Guggenheim Museum, 1071 Fifth Avenue at 89 Street before it closes January 5, 2014.

The exhibition catalog is excellent for the essays, but not for the images. You have to see the works in person. I can remember how bold and colorful the works are. I saw them. I will remember. The catalog colors and resolution is disappointing (it may be because the catalog was relatively inexpensive). The Motherwell exhibition archive and the number of images may change. Best to get to the Museum and see the works in person. If you are a collage artist and if you love collage, you must see this show.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Who you know and how you build relationships with the right people is critically important. It also helps to be a brilliant artist in the right place at the right time.

Robert Motherwell (1915-1991) was an intellectual who wanted to be a painter.

Motherwell got his BA in philosophy and French at Stanford University (CA) and started his PhD in philosophy at Harvard University. He left Harvard, went to Columbia University (NY), met and was mentored by Meyer Schapiro (art history professor with an extraordinary reputation and contacts) who advised Motherwell to quit philosophy and focus on painting.

Meyer Schapiro introduced Motherwell to European emigree artists in NY, including Andre Masson, Marcel Duchamp and Max Ernst. It was helpful that Motherwell was fluent in French, had studied literature and philosophy, and had been to Paris.

Motherwell became good friends with Chilean Surrealist artist Roberto Matta who introduced Motherwell to automatic drawing and Surrealism (which influenced Motherwelll’s artistic practice for the remainder of his life).

Matta also introduced Motherwell to Peggy Guggenheim who invited him (with William Baziotes and Jackson Pollock) to create collages for her upcoming collage exhibition at her gallery Art of This Century in New York.

According to Peter Plagens’s Wall Street Journal review (Robert Motherwell and the Exuberance of Invention, Wall Street Journal, Dec 5, 2013), Peggy Guggenheim wanted to juxtapose the work of pioneering European modernists with younger American artists just beginning to push into Abstract Expressionism. She asked the Americans to create collage for the Art of this Century show.

How could the young artists say no – they had to create the work – they wanted to be included in a show with European masters like Jean Arp, Georges Braque, Juan Gris, Joan Miro and Pablo Picasso.

Motherwell’s collages were a huge success in the Art of this Century show. Peggy Guggenheim organized a solo collage show for Motherwell the following year.

Pancho Villa Dead and Alive was in the second show and immediately purchased and is now in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art NY.

Please send me your comments. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year.

Get Creative with Collage

September 11, 2013

How do you feel creative?

What does it take to become an artist? It takes looking and making. Artists are trained to observe. We regard everything we see with a critical eye. We analyze and  interpret what we see, and the world we observe is translated into the art we create.

Practice making art. Think about what you make. Think about how you made it. Make it anew. Practice.

KEEP A JOURNAL

Keep an art journal (notebook) to help you as you practice. Make it by hand. Record ideas in your own handwriting or print as you create work. Explore media and techniques in your journal. What did you do? Write down the steps you took. Write about plans for new works and works in progress.

ADD CUT OUTS

This is a collage blog, so I recommend you collage into your journal. Cut out and paste words and images from magazines, books and newspapers.  Add doodles and drawings with pen and pencil. Don’t say you can’t draw: trace and transfer a line drawing in your own hand.

Make lists. Print or cut out letters. Embellish your pages. Create a map or a flow chart or a diary of your day and the work you plan to do. The journal will help you develop ideas, and help you hold onto ideas for your studio practice.

Nick Cave, Art Journal

Nick Cave, Art Journal

The image above is a 2 page spread from a journal by contemporary artist Nick Cave (American, born 1959). Cave is a fabric sculptor, dancer and performance artists, best know for his SoundSuits, wearable fabric sculptures (I call these fabulous 3D collages).

The hand-writing and color embellishment may just be working information.  I say it’s also contemporary art, a personal object made by a contemporary artist that reveals the artist’s hand at work. Contemporary art is often about lists and information.

Nick Cave’s notebook proves that an artist’s journal can become a work of art.

Are you Stuck? Are you worried? Keep a journal and get un-stuck.

If you have a work in progress (a painting, print or collage) that you can’t finish, and are afraid to keep working on it, use a journal to help you understand what and where the problem is. Artists worry about taking a work too far.

DON’T WORK ON IT. TAKE A BREAK.

1st step: Put the work aside – turn it so you don’t see it. Walk away. Return when you think you have been away long enough, and look at your work with fresh eyes. BUT, Don’t work on it!

USE THE JOURNAL AS A TOOL

2nd step: Take out your journal. Write about what you see in the work  you want to change. Describe what you like and what you don’t like.

Analyze the work in parts. Look at colors, shapes, and lines. Write about how you would change these elements.

Do color studies in your pages. See if different colors work better together.

Make several small print copies of the work you want to change. Cut and paste the images into your journal. Add cut outs and change the image. Write about the changes you made. It’s important to see and understand and describe what you do.

Find works by artists that inspire you. If I wanted to work with red, I would look at The Red Studio (1911) an oil painting by Henri Matisse (French, 1869-1954).

I love this painting and always think about The Red Studio when I think about the color red.

Henri Matisse, The Red Studio, 1911

Henri Matisse, The Red Studio, 1911

I found a very interesting commentary about what Matisse was doing when he created this painting.

Listen to the comments on the audio that describe how Matisse made the painting, and how he was able to crush the illusion of space – something all modern artists tried to do – and the way he used the color and the way he applied the paint.

CUT AND PASTE and CREATE A NEW WORK OF ART in YOUR JOURNAL

Your journal pages can become a work of art as a collage.

Find collage media online. The Internet is a great resource for inspiring images. Find images in art periodicals, books, exhibition catalogs, fashion and home design magazines. Find images in catalogs you receive in the mail.

Use media for inspiration. Cut and paste images into your journal. Make sure the scale is right for your journal pages. Play with scale. Write about the juxtaposition of your images, your design and the colors you use. Make notes about what you will do and how you will use the images. It’s important to write all the ideas down by hand. You will remember original thoughts better that way.

THEME AND VARIATION

Another way to tackle the problem of your unfinished art work:

Make 10-15 standard size (8.5”x11”) print copies of the unfinished work. Reproduce some copies in color and some copies in black and white. Glue the copies to a larger paper (a substrate) that is sturdy.

As you work on each copy, add collage elements with new colors and texture (use pieces of colored paper to move colors around, cover areas that are too busy, open up areas that are tight, etc.).

Make notes. Take a digital image of the 8.5″x11″ collage, reduce the size  and glue the small print image into the journal. Write about the new image. Add to the image. Make it into a new image.

Analyze how you use color. Do you want to explore other color relationships? Make another collage.

Ask: Is there any image, color, shape or line that is too dominant (or too weak)?  Should it be covered over, minimalized or replaced?

If you are dissatisfied with lines, make a drawing with an artist pencil (2B, 3B, 4B) onto a piece of paper (I like to work with hand-made BFK Rives paper). then add the  line drawing into the collage.

The image below is by Benjamin Jones. I love what he does with text. His collage is titled 7 Virtues. He achieves so much with black and white and one color – red. Notice that the central squares (his drawings) open up the space, and the surrounding text feels like a pattern.

Benjamin Jones, 7 Virtues, collage

Benjamin Jones, 7 Virtues, collage

COLLAGE GIVES YOU INCREDIBLE FREEDOM

Collage allows you to take chances, try new techniques, play with images and design.

Other ways to get “un-stuck” with an original work of art:

Rotate the image clockwise. See how it looks in every direction. Make notes in your journal.

Look at the work in a mirror. See how it looks in reverse. Is the composition off? How can you correct it? Make notes in your journal.

HOW I START A COLLAGE

I like to start a collage by looking at papers.  I choose papers even before I know what the image will be. My paper inventory is sorted by color, texture, pattern, and separated into painted paper, natural (undecorated) papers, drawings, copies, etc.

The collage below is a riff on the Exquisite Corpse genre, a figure done in 4 sections.

Read about the exquisite corpse in a class project I taught at the Pelham Art Center.  My post “All Mixed Up” includes many images by students – each student created a unique figure in collage.

Historically, the Exquisite Corpse was created as a collective collage (a group project). The idea for the Exquisite Corpse (Cadavre Esquis) originated in 19th century France.  The collage had words (a poem) if the group included writers. The collage had a figure in 3 or 4 folded sections, if the group included visual artists.

I made the Exquisite Corpse below. It was not a collaborative project.

It started with a magazine photo of a man with bare legs and loafers. I was drawn to the image. It was the right size and scale for the collage I wanted to create. I cut the image into 2 parts. I separated the torso and hands from the legs. I found other papers to  create 4 sections. I found a line drawing map.  I wanted text and a funky diagram drawimg (found in a contemporary art magazine). Other images (solid grey background blocks and textured patterns) came from interior design magazines. l included text: it’s folded. I used a black and white concentric circle as a bullseye for a face. I wanted a strong pattern. I found a drawing of a single eye, and placed it on top of the bullseye circle. I found a windowpane patterned paper, and cut it into a wedge shape for a skirt. This is a very strange fellow. It’s my idea of Surrealist art (something emotionally charged and challenging) with a contemporary twist because it includes the map and text for arms.

Nikkal, Exquisite Corpse, collage (2013)

Nikkal, Exquisite Corpse, collage (2013)

ART IS NOT JUST FOR ARTISTS. EVERYONE IS CREATIVE

My pitch: Participate in a creativity workshop. Make original art. Gain a new appreciation of your own creativity.

Explore contemporary collage.  Contact me. I teach classes at the Pelham Art Center and teach semi private (small group) workshops in my studio at Media Loft in New Rochelle, NY. I also offer small group critique sessions and help you analyze your work in progress.

Every class session includes demonstration and a little discussion about ideas for contemporary collage. It’s important to know what’s current and who the masters are.

We create our own collage media from everyday stuff.  We collage with words (text). We paint papers. Students bring their own media to add a personal touch.

Contact me to get information about a workshop. Send me your comments (see comments box below). Ask me about how you can problem-solve to get art work un-stuck. Thanks for reading.

When projects are unfinished, it’s good to continue.

So we continued with Collage All Mixed Up – the previous class project at the Pelham Art Center where I teach Thursday evenings.

I wrote about the all mixed up project in the previous blog, and talked about the Exquisite Corpse, a multi-part poem or image that was the basis for the project.

The class is titled Embellish An Image: Play with Collage. We have a project each week, sometimes determined by me, sometimes suggested by one of the class members.  Sometimes we don’t finish the project during the class.

We cut and tear. We glue. We layer. We play. We experiment. We embellish. We get very involved and forget about time. Then we finish the project at home or we continue the following week.

Here’s a bit of information: when you make art over a period of time, when there’s a break and you return to the work, the second sweep will often change the look of the work. It can become a new work (different from the earlier work) and that’s ok.

MIX IT UP MULTI MEDIA

The image below shows a work that includes drawing and collage that was completed over 2 weeks. It was embellished with drawing.

class collage project

The central figure is in 3 parts all mixed up: the feet are male athlete’s feet. The body is a fashion figure in a pink jacket. The face is a lovable white dog (a poodle?).

The drawn lines connect everything, including a connection to the trailing flower stems in the paper collage piece at the bottom. There is a wonderful sense of white space and hand drawing.

This image truly expresses the charm and personality of the person who created it.

The project Collage All Mixed Up (the Exquisite Corpse) is really my attempt to introduce my students to Surrealism, an art movement that began in the early 1920s.

Surrealism includes collage. Many famous artists of the 20th century were Surrealists, including Max Ernst, Joan Miro, Salvador Dali, Rene Magritte and Andre Breton (a poet known as the founder of Surrealism).

The Surrealist writers and artists met in cafes, played collaborative drawings games, and developed automatic drawing as a means to express the subconscious. Works included unexpected visual (or literary) juxtapositions or materials and imagery via collage.   Read about surrealism.

LAYERS LAYERS LAYERS

The image below shows another work that was completed over 2 weeks. The first week the student spent her time locating papers and cutting them out precisely. She never got to gluing things down – which served her well, because she added papers the second week, and found new ways to use the papers, and the work changed dramatically.

class collage project

I talked to the students about how collage can be multi-layered.  I think placing a background collage layer is a good way to start a collage. The background can be a large single piece or multiple pieces of paper. The papers can be found in books, prints or magazines, can be fabric, can be photographs or photocopies, can be painted papers, drawings or prints.

The main image that sits on top of the background collage will be more interesting and seem to have more depth.

Notice the image above. Papers were collected from art and fashion magazines. The images are layered.  Notice the yellow and black papers that sit under the model’s legs – to create contrast so you see the figure. Notice how the student cut diagonal patterns along the edge of the background papers and tore edges on other papers to move your eye around. The colors are all related, and there’s a lot of energy in the design.

The image below shows another work that was completed over 2 weeks. Some of the collage was glued down the first week, but most of the time the first week was spent finding the right magazine papers.

class collage project

I like to stress design principles in the class – like repeating shapes in various sizes (scale) and finding papers in a range of colors that show different hues and values. The variations make the composition much more interesting. Finding papers with pattern and drawing adds more interest.

COLLAGE TO TELL A STORY

We talked in the fist class about a narrative approach to collage. I suggested students pick a word or a phrase and find text and images, then create a story collage. It’s another good way to begin.

Notice how the blues and reds range from subdued to saturated color, from opaque to gradient and patterned color. The round objects, the wheel in red and blue, the fish and the sunlit water (see the tilted blue square on the left) lead your eye around and through the composition. Like the neon orange fish, you are traveling through the space. That’s good. There is a wonderful juxtaposition of the various elements, lots of layering, and many words to tell the STORY.

THE POWER OF ONE COLOR

The image below shows a work that was completed in a single class session.

class collage project

The collage was made with magazine papers, hand made black and white striped paper and text. It’s multi-layered and includes a lot of different paper elements. This student especially likes to make abstract art with bold color, high contrast, and geometric design.  I told her I liked the juxtaposition of cut and torn papers, curved and straight shapes. There’s a lot of movement under, over, around, across, off the edge and back in again. Stripes make it work even better.

The image below is a voyage to an exotic place. The student found papers that suited her green sensibility (at the time of the class) as well as papers that included patterns and stripes to go with the hand-made black and white striped paper I brought to the class. This collage has multiple layers of paper. The striped paper is part of the under layer of the collage. The cut and torn magazine papers create geometric abstraction, suggest natural landscape and also include peekaboo graphic images that surprise.

class collage project

CONCLUSION

Did you notice that everyone did a different work? I love that. In my next blog (for the next project) I will include images by more class members.

Please post you questions, if you want to know more about the papers, resources or projects.

COLLAGE ALL MIXED UP

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).

4 part exquisite corpse

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.

Max Ernst, Santa Conversazione

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.

pages in All Mixed Up by Carin Berger

ROBOT BALANCES PLAYFULLY

I did my own sample collage called Robot Balances Playfully. See image below.

my collage

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.

my collage titled Trouble 6

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.

my collage titled Trouble 11

The image above includes a grid of drawings in the background with the figure and text collaged over.

my collage titled Trouble 2

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.

ASK ME.