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.

Small Scale Collage

January 24, 2013

Next week I will teach a workshop in paper collage at Iona Collage in New Rochelle, NY.  

I will be a substitute for their regular teacher, and I want the class project to be fun, quick and easy to do – and engage them in making a collage right there.

I will provide each student with a 6 x 9 inch exhibition postcard for them to work on.

They will use magazines for source media, and work with scissors and glue sticks to cut and paste papers. I will show sample postcards with collage that I prepare for them.

I will talk about the history of collage (and will not talk too much) while they are working on their project.

Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque are credited with the invention of modern collage (1912-1914). The English word collage comes from the French words papiers colle (glued paper), a term coined by the Cubists. People who paste paper may also paste photos, fabric and 3D materials like wood, plastic, metal etc.

Many books on contemporary art describe COLLAGE as a medium of surface planes that explore sub-surfaces. Many books also discuss collage as a medium that comments on waste and rampant consumer consumption. A lot of collage is about politics and identity. It’s always about narrative and media.

Basically, I want to say that there is so much potential collage media out there to recycle into art.  I think the idea of recycling and consumer consumption will appeal to this age demographic.

Nancy Egol Nikkal, collage on a card 1, 6x4, 2013

Nancy Egol Nikkal, collage on a card 1, 6×4, 2013

How about creating cards with collage?

I think we all have too much paper in our lives. But, I also think every piece of junk mail is a potential substrate (base) for collage, or can serve as paper to cut and paste onto something else.

Do you get postcard announcements for consumer goods in the mail? Do you get glossy multi-page home goods and fashion catalogs in the mail? It’s all potential collage media.

In my collage classes, I talk about 3Rs – reuse, repurpose and recycle.

Nancy Egol Nikkal, card with collage 2, 4x5, 2013

Nancy Egol Nikkal, collage on a card 2, 4×5, 2013

What about the holiday cards you received this year? Don’t throw them out. Recycle the castaways and use collage to create your own work of art. Cover the base with a little collage or cover it with a lot (but leave a little of the original card peeking through) to show the juxtaposition of the old with the new media.

Free Paper Bonanza

Last year I was gallery hopping in Chelsea (NYC). It was the closing day for the exhibition at one gallery, and I noticed a pile of really good, heavy weight exhibition announcement cards sitting on top of the counter where the gallery people sit.  The cards were an elegant graphic (text) printed on lovely white stock.

As soon as I found out it was the last day for the exhibition, I asked if I could have the cards. They said yes.

Nancy Egol Nikkal, collage on a card 3, 4x6, 2013

Nancy Egol Nikkal, collage on a card 3, 4×6, 2013

Theme and Variation

I like the idea of theme and variation. I start with the same base image. It can be an exhibition postcard (from my exhibitions) or a greeting card I’ve reproduced from my collage paintings.

Do you make your own cards? Do you reproduce your images into cards? Use the cards as a base for multiple collages. The new little collages can become the inspiration for new large works.

All the images included in this post are my tiny collages made with magazine papers on top of my printed 2013 New Years card. The card is a reproduction of a large painted paper collage I did last year. The card is small, about 4×6 inches. I added up to 10 collage pieces (very tiny pieces) per card. The imagery on the original was very geometric, so I planned to use rounded shapes and circular lines as a counter-balance to the straight edges. I did about 20 collage on cards and sent the cards to people who send me hand-made cards.

Nancy Egol Nikkal, collage on card 4, 4"x6", 2013

Nancy Egol Nikkal, collage on card 4, 4×6, 2013

I found a very interesting interview online titled “What’s New With Collage?” by Hrag Vartanian who interviewed Charles Wilkin at (Oct. 25, 2011)

Wilkin curated an exhibition in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (NY) titled All That Remains, at the Picture Farm Gallery.

Vartanian asked: “What do you think is unique about collage today, if anything?”

Wilkin said: “One of the exciting things about collage is its primary use of discarded paper media which ultimately keeps it in motion, constantly changing like a chameleon. A quick look at the diversity of styles, concepts and technique found in contemporary collage proves it’s moved well beyond simply cut paper and glue.

He added: “I suspect many artists find it alluring for not only its immediacy but its unique and inherent nature to reinvent the familiar into something mysteriously new.”

Read more…

Thanks for reading. Please let me know how you recycle papers into art with collage.

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?

This is the 2nd post and includes comments and images by Mary Hunter.

See the first post for links and information about ABMB in case you want to go in 2012.

Mary Hunter wrote:

Art Basel Miami Beach 10th Anniversary

MARY: “When my friend reminded me that I had agreed to attend ABMB this year, I wasn’t aware of the unexpected and overwhelming event I was about to experience.

Checking into the 50’s style hotel, a block from the beach and walking distance to Art Basel, made me feel like I was part of a movie set. Immediately I was among Sinatra, Monroe, large hotels, the Beach and “all” I had seen in movies and photos over the years.”

Collins Avenue Miami Beach

Mary took the images nearby. I think she has a great eye for the color and light in Miami I love her image below of the funky blue globes at the hotel restaurant. We had margaritas there at the end of the long first day that included travel to Miami (she from TX, me from NY) and two fairs: Art Now at the Catalina Hotel and then an opening night party for INK at Suites of Dorchester (sponsored by the International Fine Print Dealers Assn.), both on Collins Avenue.

the Hotel


MARY: “Attending with an artist friend who had been before, made navigating smoother and the essential information of the Exhibit helpful. Her knowledge of galleries, artists and art history was a bonus for me who travels intuitively. We shared lots of conversation and fun over the 3 plus days. You could afford days at one event or attend many of the fairs. It is Huge and more art that I could consume in 4 days. This left me with the thirst to return next year.”

NANCY: Mary knows how to look at art. She knows what she likes. She has a gift for conversation. I listened in on her conversations with gallery owners and was impressed with the dialogue and information gathered.

Mary took the next two images of me at the Convention Center. It was our day to see Art Basel Miami Beach. My shoes have sand on them because we walked on the beach before breakfast.

Nancy at ABMB

Nancy viewing at ABMB

The clouds in Miami were awesome. And it didn’t rain.

Miami Beach


MARY: “The quality of art I viewed was excellent, even some museum quality. The prices were as I expected and were negotiable. In light of the size of the show, it was installed very well (not an easy task I’m sure). There was less edgy and outsider art displayed. I didn’t miss it however. Viewing all the top worldwide galleries was impressive to me.”

 Gallery Reps Were Informative and Unpretentious

MARY: “The gallery reps were most engaging, informative and unpretentious. Hearing the story about paintings by the wife of Milton Avery was most interesting and peculiar.”

Images nearby are by Mary Hunter and show a small painting and a sculpture by Joan Miro, a glass artwork (artist unidentified), and a painting by Milton Avery’s wife.

Works by Joan Miro

Glass Art

Painting by Sally Avery

We found out it wasn’t a Milton Avery painting when Mary asked the gallerist to speak about the painting and he admitted it was by Sally Avery (nee Michel). Here’s a fact: Her income as an illustrator enabled Avery to devote himself to his painting. Read more about Avery…

Do you love Joan Miro’s art? Here’s a lively 4:30 minute You Tube video with wonderful Miro images and jazzy background music…


Outside AQUA

MARY: “Some of the smaller venue sites: INK, AQUA, Art NowMiami had a more intimate space and were just as good as the larger sites: Art Basel, NADA, Art Miami and Scope, to name a few.”



Outside the Hotel Catalina

NANCY: The image above outside the Hotel Catalina came from the Internet: Zia Gallery did a great blog titled Miami Basel End Notes with more images. Zia was one of about 16 galleries at Art Now Miami.

Mary wrote the artists she met were very approachable and interesting to converse with on their process, approach and work possibilities.

She found an art event we attended on Saturday evening after visiting Art Miami, Scope and Art Asia. We walked to the opening: Very edgy art, focus on graffiti. Organized for Mr. Brainwash, a Los Angeles-based filmmaker and Pop Artist at a pop-up space called the Boulan Building at 21st Street and Collins Ave. It was so windy outside we were almost blown over trying to walk there. Do you know about Mr. Brainwash? His real name is Thierry Guetta, The exhibition party included the celebrity basketball star Bosh of the Miami Heat. Mary is a fan. She took the two pictures seen below. The two-story space was huge and filled with graffiti installations and paintings. The crowd was young. The celebrities didn’t stay long. We weren’t invited to the red-carpet dinner.

Bosh and Mr. Brainwash

Mr. Brainwash Graffiti painting

MARY: “I came home ‘drunk’ on great Contemporary Art and the pure enjoyment of having shared it with a good artist friend. And yes I will attend again next year as my appetite wants more!”

mary hunter

You can contact Mary:  marydothunteratmacdotcom

Mary in the Picture at ABMB

I think I took the picture above: Mary and the artist with his installation at ABMB. She bought a banana to eat. How smart is that? I wish I’d bought a banana also. I was starving as soon as we walked outside.

Mary and a Living Sculpture

I hope you enjoyed reading Mary’s comments and seeing the images. I am already looking forward to next year.

Thank you for your comments below.


November 17, 2011

I recently wrote about children making art.

It’s exciting to watch. They know instinctively what materials to use and how to express their ideas in a fresh way.

I think it’s important for kids to learn about collage by great artists like Romare Bearden, Henri Matisse, Jean Dubuffet and others.

The image below shows collage in progress by two 2nd grade students at the Williams Elementary School. Notice the line drawing by Romare Bearden sitting on top of papers near the green scissor.

Students do collage

The image below is Bearden’s collage titled The Block. Image: the Internet. Made in 17 fiberboard and plywood panels. Media includes various papers with foil, paint,ink, and graphite. You can see The Block at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC (August 30, 2011 – January 8, 2012).

The Block, Romare Bearden


Do you suppose children’s art is good enough to show in a contemporary art gallery? I think so. It can be bold, inventive, and charming.

My last post was about a collage exhibition with works by children in the 8th grade. I talked a lot about how the works were framed and installed in the gallery.

I didn’t mean to imply that framing and gallery installation was responsible for how good the art works looked.  Good framing always helps, but the young students made good art. Read about the exhibition…

Picasso said all children are artists and the problem is to remain an artist as we grow up.

Do you think it’s true that young children are freer at making art than adults?

I remember a talented 10-year-old girl in a collage class I taught last summer.  She was so confident and competent.

She selected and cut all the collage papers she planned to use before she placed or glued any papers down. She didn’t plan her collage in advance. She built her collage as she glued. The process was seamless, direct and accomplished.

She was also the only child in the class.

I did an experiment last Sunday. I asked 3 of my grandchildren to make a collage based on The Block by Romare Bearden. Alexander is in 4th grade. Sofia is in 2nd grade. Aaron is in Kindergarten.  I showed them 3 drawings and a color print of The Block by Romare Bearden.

The image above is a poster for the exhibition Romare Bearden 1911-1988: A Centennial Celebration (August 30, 2011 – January 8, 2012).  Image: the Internet

Do you see that Bearden included an interior view of people, including a person sitting in the stairwell?


I brought along pre-cut papers and larger 9×12 inch paper in several different colors. I brought white Bristol paper for a substrate (the base of the collage). I brought black fine-point markers, glue in squeeze bottles, and plastic squeegees to press down collage papers. They had their own assorted color markers.

We talked about the buildings in their neighborhood. I said it was important to include lots of windows and show detail in the windows. I said remember to include doors, entry steps, architectural details within and above windows, and a view of people or pets in the windows (I showed them how Bearden included people). I suggested they embellish the rooftops with details.

The fine-point marker pens were the most interesting to them, so the collages all started as drawings. Each grandchild wanted to cut their own building blocks from the larger sheets, and cut windows from the medium size papers.

They image below is by Sofia.

Collage and drawing by Sofia

Sofia loved the pen with the brush tip and began to draw immediately on the right lower portion of her paper. The collage was glued in and around the drawing, and when the blocks were too wide for the paper, she slipped one behind the other. She used a light blue marker to color in the sky.

The image below is by Alexander.

Drawing and collage by Alexander

Alexander worked with the fine-line marker and drew details. He added a tall sculpture on a rooftop, added drawings of people inside and wrote numbers and words next to and within the buildings. He was very interested in how buildings have different window configurations. We talked about how older buildings may have high ceilings so windows are taller.

The image below is by Aaron.

Collage by Aaron

Aaron built his collage by first layering papers (windows) on building blocks. His buildings were constructed one by one. He cut the building blocks from large pieces of paper so the edges are not perfect rectangles. He cut thin, long triangular papers to fix the edges where they were irregular. He drew an elevator shaft in the blue building and added a collaged traffic light.

Each grandchild’s collage looks different and reflects their unique interests and focus.

Have you observed the way children make art? How do you think the work varies by age?

In December 2011, I will teach young students again at the Williams Elementary School and will watch and observe how they work and the ways they build their collages. I also want to see if and how they watch each other as they work.

Read more about the exhibition Romare Bearden 1911-1988: A Centennial Celebration (August 30, 2011 – January 8, 2012).

Bearden worked in collage – it dominated his studio practice the last 25 years of his life. His collages included magazine clippings, fabric, old photographs and colored papers.

Read about other centennial events in honor of Romare Bearden…

Also at the Metropolitan Museum of Art:

Don’t Miss The 9/11 Peace Story Quilt designed and constructed by Faith Ringgold in collaboration with NYC students ages 8-18 (through January 22, 2012). Another great exhibition with children!

I hope you get a chance to see the many shows that honor Romare Bearden on the centennial of his birth.

Please add your comments below about childrens’ art and collage by Romare Bearden. Thank you.


I worked on a new collage the other night and didn’t finish it until almost 2 am – I was determined to put all the pieces together and not leave it for the next day. Reason: take a break and it all changes. Your thoughts are transient. So it’s important to finish everything in one session or accept the fact that the work (the ideas) will change.

Does this happen to you?


Nikkal, Drawing the Line

My “Line” is making collage. The collage (seen above) is titled “Drawing the Line.” It’s 14×11 inches, with various papers, acrylic paint, mounted on smooth Bristol paper (2011). When the last piece was glued down, I stood the collage up against a tall object and looked to see if it needed new pieces (HINT: it’s good to see your work vertical after you’ve worked on it flat and horizontal).

I liked what I saw (lucky me) and was amazed at how much the collage looked like a drawing. That was not my plan. How did that happen? (See below)


I’ve been thinking a lot about two recent exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in NYC. The first show was titled On Line: Drawing Through the Twentieth Century (November 21, 2010-February 7, 2011), and the second show is titled Picasso: Guitars 1912-1914 (Feb. 13 – June 6, 2011).

I wrote about the two exhibitions – Drawing is Collage/Collage is Drawing – commenting that Picasso’s collages looked more dimensional in the second exhibition.

Images online and images in the very excellent exhibition catalog (Picassos Guitars 1912-1914) never do justice to the works. It’s worth a trip to NYC before the show closes June 6th to see this exhibition in person at the Museum of Modern Art.

Picasso’s papery guitars were revolutionary in concept in 1912 and the collages were experimental departures from the traditional picture plane. Picasso was blazing a trail.

Holland Cotter reviewed the exhibition on February 10, 2011 in The NY Times (Picasso Guitars: Art & Design: When Picasso Changed His Tune). He wrote: Today, nearly a century on, it’s hard to grasp how disturbing such work was to some at the time…It was perceived as a slap in the face to beauty, idealism and decorum, proof of European culture on the slide…People got angry.

Picasso, Musical Score and Guitar


I was amazed to see Picasso used straight pins. The papers are pierced and puckered. You can see shadows at the edges of the papers that are pinned. The image above (Musical Score and Guitar, 1913) is cut, pasted and pinned colored paper, sheet music, and paper and charcoal on colored papers, 15 3/4 x 18 7/8 inches.

Picasso, Bar Table with Guitar

The image above, an installation view with 2 people looking at Picasso’s Bar Table with Guitar (1913), cut and pinned wallpaper and colored paper and chalk on colored paper 24 3/8 x 15 3/8 inches shows how the papers are puckered.

Why did Picasso use pins? Pins allowed him to position and reposition works in progress.


Memories stick (like pins), and influence you, and you may not even be aware of it until you step back and see how you are influenced.

Lines are everywhere. I see TV commercials with lines in motion. Today’s skyline was filled with lines. I didn’t plan in advance, but my mostly black and white collage is on a green background (a page from a magazine I painted with a mix of green acrylic paint).

The green is the color of early spring grass and buds, and a harbinger of warm weather to come. It seemed a perfect fit as we transition from winter to spring.

If you want, see more drawings with collage – 16 works titled Strata – at my website.

I hope you will add comments. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and ideas.

I was in Manhattan in NYC, a week ago Friday, had an hour to spare before meeting friends uptown at the Studio Museum in Harlem to see Mark Bradford’s collages.  There was just enough time to visit the Museum of Modern Art. I had to do it.

The MoMA exhibition “On Line: Drawing Through the Twentieth Century” was going to close the following Monday, February 7th. All my artist friends said You Must See this Exhibition. It’s not just about lines and drawing. It’s also about collage.

There was a weather forecast for more snow, so an extra hour might be all the opportunity I would have to see the show before it closed.

Pablo Picasso, Guitar, Collage

As I entered the 6th floor exhibition gallery, there was a small crowd gathered, listening to a docent in front of the first three works in the exhibition – all by Pablo Picasso – all titled Guitar – one a collage, one an assemblage, one a charcoal line drawing – all done in 1913 and 1914.

The collage, seen nearby,  titled Guitar, is cut and pasted paper, printed paper, charcoal, ink and chalk on colored paper on board (1913), 26×19 inches.

I heard the docent say: Picasso used line to emphasize the flatness of the surface. She continued: notice the charcoal he used to outline the papers in the collage.

In 1912, Picasso was inspired by movement in space, by dance and motion pictures.  Along with Georges Braque, Picasso invented Cubism and modern collage to explore those ideas.

Paul Klee said: A drawing is simply a line going for a walk

Paul Klee, Der Angler, Reverse Drawing

On Monday, the same day the exhibition was due to close, I came back with Bette, a dear friend whose field is interior design. We celebrated her birthday at MoMA. It was great fun to share comments about the individual art works as we walked through the exhibition.

The image nearby is titled Der Angler (the Angler) 1921. It’s an oil transfer drawing, watercolor and ink on paper with watercolor and ink borders on board 19 7/8 x 12 1/2 inches.

I explained to Bette how a reverse drawing is made: Basically the artist draws from the back onto a sheet of paper that is face down on a surface coated with a thin layer of oil paint or print ink. The line that is transferred to the front of the paper is the impression made with a fine pencil or pen.

After the oil paint dried, Klee added ink and other media.

As Bette and I walked through the exhibition galleries, I asked myself: What makes each work in this show a drawing? Why is it included? What media makes the line?

I looked at the works in terms of how each artist explored the line in two or three dimensions. We saw the  line extended beyond the canvas. I was intrigued by work by Robert Ryman (American, born 1930) titled Impex, an unstretched linen canvas stapled to the wall with a a blue chalk line drawn from the top right edge up to the ceiling.

We saw dimensional works and sculpture projecting forward from the wall (a stabile by Alexander Calder). We saw sculpture that looked like lines in space hanging from the ceiling.

There was free standing sculpture on the floor, including Cube (9x9x9 feet), black finished steel (2008) by Mona Hatoum (born Beirut, Lebanon, 1952).

We saw loose undulating lines in colored pencil on cardboard, 1940 by Sophie Taeuber Arp.  I prefer taut lines.  Bette commented: Loose Ends.

I purchased the exhibition catalog for my collage library collection. It has excellent essays on the concept behind OnLine.  You can see On Line online. You’ll almost feel you are seeing the show because there are so many images and links to video and excellent text about the show.

My Favorite artist’s and their drawings in the show are by Pablo Picasso (Spanish 1881-1973), Hans (Jean) Arp (French, born Germany 1886-1966, Paul Klee (German, born Switzerland 1879-1940), Atsugo Tanaka (Japanese, 1932-2005), Eva Hesse (American, born Germany 1936-1970),  and Lucio Fontana (Argentine 1899-1968).

Lucio Fontana, Spatial Concept: Expectations

The image nearby is by Lucio Fontana (1899-1968), titled “Spatial Concept: Expectations (1959) and is synthetic polymer paint on slashed burlap, 39×32 inches.

Inspired by Futurism, Fontana wanted to escape the “prison” of the flat picture surface and explore movement, time, and space. Starting in 1949, he punctured and pierced the surfaces of sheets of paper to reach behind to what he called “a free space.” In the late 1950s Fontana began to slash linear cuts into stretched canvases.

Catherine de Zegher wrote an essay for the exhibition catalog:  Drawing is characterized by a line that is always unfolding, always becoming. Drawing is understood as an open-ended activity. The exhibition explores surface tension, the line broken free from the surface.

She adds: The history that informs the exhibition is interpreted here as an interweaving of materials, records, and the requirements of a changing present. The reading inevitably reflects notions of interconnection (as on the Web) and interdependency in a new globalized society. She wrote:

Thought has been linear and progressive.

It has evolved into a kind of network

More fluid, open, simultaneous and undefined.

Atsugo Tanaka, Round on Sand, Performance

The image nearby is by the Japanese artist Atsugo Tanaka (1932-2005). It’s a view of her performance Round on Sand (1956). She was also represented in the show with 2 works on paper  done with India ink, ink pencil and crayon on paper – one a preparatory drawing and the other a drawing after her performance Electric Dress (1956).

Atsugo Tanaka, Electric Dress

The image nearby is a drawing by Atsugo Tanaka, titled Drawing After Electric Dress (India ink, ink, pencil and crayon on paper 30 5/16 x 21 5/8 inches, 1956)

It looks like a drawing. It is actually the plan for a performance.

Calvin Tomkins, in his excellent book LIVES of the ARTISTS, wrote: “The radical changes in art and society that were set in motion during the early years of the twentieth century gave rise to a new kind of artist…where

Art could be whatever artists decided it was, and there were no restrictions on the methods and materials – from video and verbal constructs to raw nature and urban detritus – that they could use…If art can be anything, where do you begin?

Begin with Picasso.

On February 10th, my friend Dale invited me to join her at the Museum of Modern Art Member’s preview to see Picasso: Guitars 1912-1914. The 3 Guitars from the OnLine show are now ensconced in the Guitar show. Because of the way the show is lighted, the works look even more dimensional. The show is exquisite.

Pablo Picasso, Guitar, Paper Construction

The image nearby is Picasso’s Guitar (about 1913). It’s  made with paperboard, paper, string, and painted wire installed with cut cardboard box, overall: 30 x 20 1/2 x 7 3/4 inches. Picasso gifted the work to the Museum of Modern Art.

See Holland Cotter’s exhibition review “When Picasso Changed His Tune” in the NY Times, (Friday, February 11, 2011).

The review opens: “It’s 1912 and Pablo Picasso is in Paris, thinking: All right, what’s next?”

Cotter writes: “piece by piece it’s entrancing. Taken as a whole it’s a record of a brief but intense revolution that generated some of the most challenging ideas in modern art.

I would love to hear what you think about drawing and, if you visited the MoMA exhibition, what you thought of the works and the artists in the show. Thank you for your comments.