My recent blog, Drawing and Collage: The Journal as Art (January 23, 2014), encouraged you to explore images and ideas in a 90 cent notebook (or a more expensive book with fine paper).

Experts say if you keep a notebook, your memory improves.

Advice: Get a notebook with blank pages and carry it with you so you can fill it up each day with personal notes, observations, contact information you collect, to do lists, doodles, drawings, and ideas.

Alexander Calder, journal page, pen

Alexander Calder, journal page, pen

The image above is a journal page by Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976) from the book  titled Lists: To-dos, Illustrated Inventories, Collected Thoughts, and Other Artists’ Enumerations (from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art), by Liza Kirwin.

Notice Calder’s Paris address book page included sculptor Constantin Brancusi and the artist Hans (Jean) Arp in his list. Notice Calder’s calligraphic line. The page with cursive penmanship is a beautiful drawing.

Calder is best known for his wire sculptures and mobiles.

Calder said: “I think best in wire.”

The image below is a motorized mobile with painted wood, painted metal, metal wire and string, 23×24 3/4×7 (1931) Smithsonian Institution, gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn. Do you see a face in profile? I do.

Alexander Calder, Motorized Mobile

Alexander Calder, Motorized Mobile

See images of 3D wire portraits, sculpture, and toys in an online review of a 2005 the 2008-2009 Whitney Museum exhibition: Drawing in Space – Alexander Calder: The Paris Years (1926-1933). Image, courtesy the city

See Calder’s miniature Circus (see it when you visit the Whitney Museum of American Art in NYC).

Contemporary Artists Who Keep a Journal

I found an online interview of a contemporary artist (Harvey Tulcensky) who keeps a journal.

Written by Clair Corey, the article (INSIDE/OUT Dec 17, 2012) says Harvey Tulcensky works full-time at the NYC Museum of Modern Art, exhibits with Edward Thorpe Gallery (Chelsea, NY), maintains a studio practice, and keeps a notebook handy for traveling to and from work – and she adds – the artist says he fills his Moleskin notebook obsessively “like an EKG with his minute-to-minute existence.” 

The image below is an untitled drawing (detail from a notebook) by Tulcensky in ballpoint pen on paper. Image: courtesy the Internet.

Harvey Tulcensky, Untitled, (detail) Ballpoint Pen on Paper

Harvey Tulcensky, Untitled, (detail) Ballpoint Pen on Paper

Ballpoint Pen Drawings are the Hot New Thing in Contemporary Art

The January 2014 cover of ARTnews magazine shows a self portrait by Toyin Odutola in mixed media with the face and torso done in ballpoint pen. Read the article by Trent Morse (posted 01/08/14) titled “Making Cutting-Edge Art with Ballpoint Pens.

See Odutola’s blog for images and even works in progress.



Buy a notebook. Buy pens, Buy ballpoint pens (contemporary!).

Start a diary. It can be as simple as the diary kept by Pierre Bonnard – a record of what shoes he wore every day, that tells us where he lived and what the weather was like.

Discover what you like, and what you want to say. Explore your own creative ways to keep track of your life.

I hope you do.



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.


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.


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.

The summer class I teach at the Pelham Art Center:  Embellish An Image: Play with Collage includes a mix of new students and returning students, ranging in ages from younger than 20 to seventies and above.  It’s a great group. They are all creative and many are very experienced with art and collage.

Because it was the first class for the summer session, I asked the students to introduce themselves and say what they wanted to accomplish in the 8 classes. I wanted them to learn about each other and what they each expected. It’s important for the students to hear about each other’s goals, and sharing is important for the group experience.


I planned the first class with a learning-to-see project that would be simple and also challenging: a geometric abstraction.

I brought individual sandwich-sized Baggies filled with tiny pre-cut papers, one Baggie for each person.  See the image below with the papers, a metal ruler, a pair of scissors, a pencil and an eraser. You can see how small the papers are in relation to the ruler and pencil.


The collage project is inspired by a work of art titled Rectangles Arranged According to the Laws of Chance by Jean (Hans) Arp. Arp’s collage includes 22 papers. Arp (French, born Germany – Alsace, 1886-1966) created many collages titled Squares (Rectangles) Arranged According to the Laws of Chance. See more images.

I wanted the class to pay attention the different shapes and sizes of the papers. If the papers were different, they would create a totally different work of art.

I showed a sample (reproduction) of Art’s collage. See image below. The original collage, completed in 1916, is about 10 x 5 inches.

Jean Arp, Rectangles Arranged According to the Laws of Chance

We discussed a little bit about Arp and the art movement called Dada. They all knew something about it.  I suggested that Arp didn’t arrange his papers by chance even though the title of his work says so (and Arp did multiple collages with that title).

I tossed a few loose papers onto the table to demonstrate that the papers didn’t – couldn’t – land in the same order as the sample collage I showed them.

We talked about how to begin placing the papers. I created a sample collage with the same papers that were included in the Baggies. See the image below.

Paper Sampler

I said the class project would be fun and challenging and test their ability to look carefully (it really was all about developing that skill).

I showed them the gluing technique I use: white PVA glue applied with a bristle brush, papers pressed flat with a plastic squeegee. I showed them how I applied the glue and used a piece of waxed paper as a barrier sheet between the collage and the squeegee as the papers are glued down.

I said they should study the collage by Arp and notice the spaces between the papers, the angles if they varied, where the papers touch, and if they overlap.

The papers in the Baggies ranged in color from white to warm grey and green grey to black, representing  5 different tonal values. Each person got a watercolor-weight paper substrate in a contrasting white.  The substrate is the bottom collage layer.

I showed the students that some of the papers in my sample collage were shaded with a pencil and some of the pencil markings were lightened with the eraser – all to create texture and tonal variations.

I brought artists pencils – 3B, 4B, 5B, and 7B. They tried out the different pencils and selected the pencil they wanted to use. B is a soft lead pencil. The higher the number, the softer the lead and darker the line. I also brought pencils H and HB, which are harder lead and make lighter lines. Nobody wanted to use these.

See samples of the collages created in the class below. Each collage is inspired by Arp’s collage, but each one is unique because each student decided to be original as they finished assembling the papers. Many took the collage to the next level and cut and pasted extra papers to embellish their image.

The images above include extra papers, curvy, cut shaped papers, and 3 dimensional cut papers.

Here’s more:

We all need creative time. The collage class is about play (it’s titled Play With Collage), but it’s really  about personal expression, developing an eye, and building confidence with each success.


I checked out “Adults Need to Play, Too (online) and found a link to many articles, including an article in Scientific American magazine titled The Serious Need for Play.

They say life flows with greater ease if we allow ourselves some time for play every day.

They say it makes us better adjusted, smarter and less stressed. Read more…

I  teach an 8 week collage class – Embellish An Image: Play with Collage at the Pelham Art Center (Pelham, NY), scheduled for June 28-August 16, 2012. Each time I lead the classes, I think about how to create the best collage class experience for each person.

Some people will be new this session. Some people are returning a second time. For the new people, I need to find out what their skill level is and what they want to learn. For the people who are returning. I need to expand what we cover.

I thought about how to make the repeat (basic) projects fresh and how to introduce new projects, techniques and information.

Take My Survey

I have a survey with 38 questions about classes and workshops (see the survey nearby) I ask people to answer  yes or no to statements like: I like  classes where projects are unique every week. I like workshops that introduce experimental techniques. I like workshops that include portrait collage/landscape collage/narrative collage. I like workshops that include geometric abstraction…

The survey asks if people like to work with imported, exotic papers, if they like to work with natural materials, if they like to work with recycled and repurposed materials. Do they like workshops that focus on drawing and collage? Do they want to make collage with acrylic or water media? And more.

I get the responses and get a picture of what different people want to do.

At the first class I will ask everyone to talk about themselves and their experience with art and collage. I want to learn what they want to learn.

I want to teach the collage classes so that each person has collage success.

I’ll tell them what I planned for the classes. I’ll ask what they want to add or subtract.

A Quickie Collage Project for the 1st Class

I’ll bring papers for a quickie collage project and I’ll do a demonstration on how to glue papers. Everyone will make a collage.

The project will be based on the work of Jean Arp, a geometric collage titled Rectangles Arranged According to the Laws of Chance. See an earlier post about Arp’s collage and the laws of chance. I think chance in Arp’s collage is about the way the papers were selected (and not the way the papers were placed).

Jean Arp

Arp’s collage (above) includes papers in black, white and grey. He like to work in black and white.

I hope nobody in the class hates abstraction.

This collage project asks people to notice the way the papers are organized and the spaces within. The project is really about learning to see. It’s a good challenge. See an earlier post for more about this project.

I will propose projects for future weeks that include gluing techniques (fabric and paper collage), expressive drawing (to add a personal touch), learning to mix paints to achieve the colors you want, working with different paint brushes (we’ll create decorated papers), and pin press printmaking (printmaking without a press) to explore mixed media in collage. Each week will include a different technique and explore a range of media.

I’ll bring a variety of lead pencils to the class when we explore drawing. Basic drawing pencils are graded by the softness or hardness of their lead. The softer the lead, the darker the mark you make. The harder the lead, the lighter the mark will be.  I’ll bring pastels to add soft color. I’ll bring a variety of paint brushes so people can determine what they like.

I will write about the class projects in the coming weeks.

Please take my survey.

What are the laws of chance?

What are the odds you can create a work of art according to the laws of chance?

“Chance is my raw material” is a quote from the artist Jean Hans Arp (1886-1966), a German-French sculptor, painter and poet.

Arp titled many of his works Rectangles (or Squares) Arranged According to the Laws of  Chance.

I am sure the Laws of Chance don’t actually work.

Jean Hans Arp

The image above is titled Rectangles Arranged According to the Laws of Chance.

I Tried to Drop Squares and See How They Land

I created a studio experiment with assorted papers. I wanted to see if there was any possibility I could get a result that looked like the collages by Jean Arp.

The squares never landed where I intended. I always had to move them closer together or further apart. Many squares landed on top of other squares and I wanted space between them.

Space is important and it has to be just the right amount of space.

Nancy Egol Nikkal

In the work above, I dropped the papers from arms length and had to move almost every paper from its original landing place.

I took the picture and pulled the papers off and began again.

I placed papers on top of other papers and overlapped papers. I moved further away from the paper substrate and lowered my arm as I dropped each paper hoping that the papers would land closer to where I dropped them. It didn’t work. The papers floated and I had to move them again.

On another day, I painted papers with acrylic paint on front and back sides to see if the added weight of paint would affect the way the papers dropped. It didn’t.

I changed the way I released the papers to see if they would land with more control.

I tossed the papers like a frisbee from a distance and some landed completely off the substrate paper.

I tried to flip the papers in the toss.

Chance is in the Random Order

Arp said his collages were arranged according to the laws of chance. But many texts suggest Arp  used chance in the order he selected his papers, not in the way he scattered the papers and moved them.

The chance was in the random order of their selection.

In the work below, I gathered up all the papers like a deck of cards and shuffled them to create a random order, then scattered them one by one – and rearranged them.

shuffled and placed in random order

The image below is another collage by Arp that inspires me because it is so architectural. It is also titled Rectangles Arranged According to the Laws of Chance.

Arp liked to work in black and white and grey. He said “I use very little red. I use blue, yellow, a little green, but especially black, white and grey…Black and white is writing.


I like the way the blocks lean into one another.

I decided to create my own tower. I put the red at the top. I like to think that each block is in dialog with its neighbor like a stack of talking heads. My image is below. The red block is arguing with the yellow block on the opposite tower. The green and the blue blocks are feuding  a few stories below. I inserted collage text with the words perch perch. It’s precarious and may topple.

Create Your Own Chance Collage

Here is an interesting collage project: Look at the black and white tower of blocks in Arp’s collage titled Rectangles Arranged by Chance (above).

See the blocks in terms of lights and darks. Some are also medium toned. Select papers in a range of tones from black to white.

See the blocks in terms of size and shape. Some are long vertical rectangles. Some are horizontal. Some are square. Cut blocks in assorted shapes.

See the blocks in terms of how they touch and if they are straight or slightly angled.

See how they are close together or far apart.

Obviously they are arranged.

Try to arrange blocks with reference to a harmonious balance of lights and darks and pay attention to the shapes of the spaces between the blocks.

Here’s one more thing to think about: What papers are glued down first? What do you do if you move some of the papers as you are gluing them down? Suppose the placement and tension is changed? Can you restore the composition or do you proceed with something new?

Isn’t that also about being open to chance?

In my last post, I wrote about the artist Jean (Hans) Arp. He made collage according to the laws of chance.  He dropped squares of paper onto paper and gave the works titles like Squares Arranged According to the Laws of Chance. The image below is made with cut and pasted papers, ink and bronze paint (1917), image courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY.

Jean Arp, Squares Arranged According to the Laws of Chance

Arp was a founding member of the Dada movement that started in Zurich, Switzerland in 1916.  A lot of Dada was about the laws of chance. The movement started as a political protest and dissipated after the close of World War 1. Many of the artists (Jean Arp, Kurt Schwitters, and Max Ernst) left protest for studio practice and went on to build stellar art careers.

Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968)

I am fascinated by Dada. I think it’s resurgent, and think a lot of contemporary art is inspired by Dada.

Dada and Marcel Duchamp

Dada is still with us because of the artist Marcel Duchamp.

Duchamp was not a member of the Dadaist movement (he resisted joining groups). But, he was a natural Dadaist all his life.

The Bride and the Bachelors

Read Calvin Tomkins book The Bride and the Bachelors: Five Masters of the Avant-Garde (Duchamp, Tinguely, Cage, Rauschenberg, Cunningham). I bought the paperback, first published in 1965.  The first chapter is about Marcel Duchamp (French, 1887-1968).

Duchamp said: “Why worry about art when life is what matters…Do unto others as they would wish – but with more imagination.”

Duchamp invented the term readymade – see the image below of “Bicycle Wheel” (1913/1964)

Marcel Duchamp, Roue de Bicyclette/Bicycle Wheel

Calvin Tomkins: Unlike the Surrealist objet trouve – a common object chosen for its accidental aesthetic value, the readymade has no aesthetic value whatsoever (according to Duchamp). Tomkins adds: therefore, it functions in a sense as a derisive comment on all art traditions and dogmas.

Read more  about Duchamp at the Centre Pompidou (Paris, France) website.

Every art movement that uses everyday objects today can thank Duchamp for leading the way.

One of Duchamp’s most famous readymades was titled “Fountain” – a porcelain urinal turned upside down with the signature R. Mutt.

Marcel Duchamp, Fountane/Fountain

Duchamp (and Joseph Stella) sent the sculpture to the 1917 exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists at the NYC Armory show. Duchamp was a founding member of the Society. The work created a furor.  The hanging committee refused to exhibit the readymade sculpture.

Calvin Tomkins wrote: Duchamp commented slyly: The only works of art in America are her plumbing and her bridges.

Fountain Art Fair, New York 2012

Flash Forward to 2012 and the Fountain Art Fair (March 9-11) at the 69th Regiment Armory at Lexington Ave. and 25th Street during New York Art Week.

This is the same 69th Regiment Armory where Marcel Duchamp famously hung his “Nude Descending a Staircase in 1913 (showing alongside contemporary artists like Edgar Degas, Edvard Munch and Pablo Picasso) – Duchamp would later secure a place in art history with his readymade (urinal) titled FOUNTAIN (1917).

In March, I participated with a group of 72 artists in a salon-style installation at the Fountain Art Fair with a group called Hullaballoo Collective – at booth E212. The collective was organized by Bernard Klevikas and several other artists who live and work in Brooklyn, NY. I exhibited 2 collages.

Here’s a link to the BlouinArtInfo blog with the title: Fountain Artists Honor Armory History with Playful Nods to Duchamp…

One Hullaballoo member made the connection from the Fountain Art Fair to  Marcel Duchamp, exhibited a work titled Idol Inaction, and arrived at the opening reception wearing a Duchamp jersey. See image of Brian Goings below at the Hullaballoo booth.

Brian Goings at Hullaballoo

Bernard Klevickas wrote the Hullaballoo statement:

Hullaballoo Collective is a diverse group of artists who have come together through social media to present a salon style exhibition at the Fountain Art Fair… We are artists. We are part of the egalitarian zeitgeist, the energy that underlies the new century and that uses new tools to reach broad audiences. There’s a Hullaballoo website. There was a lot of buzz.  The website shows works by the artists in the Collective.

The image below is my work, titled Recycle 1, collage, assorted papers recycled from old monoprints, 22×18 inches, cut and assembled in random order.

Nikkal, Recycle 1, collage

I don’t know if this year’s downtown Armory show was different from recent years. I’ve read reviews that say the show has changed and is getting upscale. I was expecting the space to be raw and unfinished and the art to be young and edgy.

According to Fountain organizers, this year’s show attracted over 10,000 visitors in 3 days. On opening night, there was a line around the block to get in – and we did get art critics Jerry Salz and Roberta Smith at our booth. Read about the record attendance


What would Duchamp say? I know he disdained the confluence of art and commerce (but managed very well – thank you!). some art critics say he gave up art for chess, but his readymades were re-made in the mid-20th century, shown to great fanfare, and his work is now known around the world.

I bet he would love the idea of social media and the possibilities of the Internet.

What do you think Duchamp would do about Social Media?

I am a big fan of work by the artist Jean (Hans) ARP.  He was born in 1886 in Strasbourg. His mother was French and his father was German. When he spoke French, he referred to himself as Jean; when he spoke German he referred to himself as Hans.

Arp was a founding member of the Dada movement that started in Zurich, Switzerland in 1916.

He is known for his curvy biomorphic sculptures and painted wood relief sculpture. He is also known for geometric abstract collage.

Jean (Hans) Arp

One of my favorite works by Arp is titled Squares Arranged According to the Laws of Chance , 1917 (cut and pasted papers, ink, and bronze paint), collection the Museum of Modern Art, New York, seen below (image the Internet).

Arp claimed he created the work by dropping cut and torn papers onto another paper and attaching them where they landed. Many people believe the artist moved the papers around as he made the collage.

Arp denied it, and his titles are his testament to the Dada premise that the work is done by chance.

Dada art is anti-art. It is anti-aesthetic.

By definition, Dada (especially in painting) was based on irrationality.


In my opinion, a painting that is a bunch of squares arranged by chance is not high art – unless it is Dada. Then it is anti-art in the highest dadaist tradition.

The image below  is another early collage by Arp,  titled Rectangles Arranged According to the Laws of Chance (1916) 9 7/8 x 4 7/8 inches.

Arp, Rectangles Arranged...


I’ve tried to drop squares and see if they land well.

I teach collage classes and ask students to drop squares and see if they land well. I show them the image by Arp (above).

It doesn’t work. The squares never land where they should. We always feel compelled to adjust the spaces between the papers, moving them closer together or further apart.

Here’s a Lesson in Design

The spaces in between are important. Spaces help create a pattern and a rhythm for the composition, both basic elements of good design.


Arp is famous for his curvy sculpture and painted wood relief sculpture.

He also titled them Arranged According to the Laws of Chance . The image below was done in 1928. It is a painted wood relief sculpture, 55 1/8 x 42 ½ inches (private collection).

Arp, Arranged According to the Laws of Chance, painted wood

Notice some of the shapes are circular and some are biomorhic (like flower petals). Notice the spaces between the wood pieces. Some are closer; some are further apart; some almost touch. Notice the variations in size and value. Some are bigger; some are smaller. Some are darker; some are lighter. The relationship between the pieces is perfect and creates a sense of movement and rhythm so your eye keeps moving.


The image below shows Arp in 1958 in his studio at Meudon, a suburb of Paris, France, surrounded by his sculpture (photo by Andre Villers).

Jean Arp in his studio with sculpture

I found the images in a book about Arp printed in 1958. The book was published by the Musuem of Modern Art, New York.

I was lucky to find the book – by chance – at a tag sale  in New Canaan, CT at the Silvermine Arts Center  (the tag sale is an annual event).

I brought my collage to Silvermine for the 90th Anniversary Exhibition, May 5-June 9, 2012 and found an art book.


I planned to write this post about Art and Dada, and by chance found a book about Arp and Dada.

Below is an image of my collage I delivered to Silvermine Arts Center. The papers are cut and torn and assembled – not by chance. The image is 16×18 inches.

Nikkal, Recycle Totems, collage with various papers

I converted my collage (above) from color to black and white – to match the other black and white images from the book about Arp.

The collage is made with recycled papers. I think the elements look like totems. That is how the work got its title Recycled Totems.

Do you think Arp created his collages by chance?

Did you ever try to create a work by chance?

Thank you for reading. Please leave a comment below.

Read more about Dadaism:

Dada laid the groundwork for abstract art and sound poetry; it’s a precursor to postmodernism and pop art.  Read about the important artists in Dada and how the Dada movement influenced performance art, poetry and music…