March 29, 2017
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
October 21, 2014
PINTEREST is an image bonanza for me. I’m almost always inspired by what I see even though typical Pinterest images are not about art (most images are about fashion, babies, craft and food). I always look for artsy images, and I’ve noticed, the more time I spend at Pinterest, the more art images seem to appear in email links. I have a pin board titled the Art of Food. Everything is presented like a work of art. See images I collect – portrait collage, mixed media, and more. See collage by great artists I admire: Henri Matisse and Romare Bearden. Read an earlier post about Pinterest here.
EVERYONE LOVES FLOWERS
I found this image at Pinterest and designed a collage project for my fall 2014 class at the Pelham Art Center.
I created a sample collage with a similar image to explore how difficult it would be to make. Notice the flowers are decorative, abstract and include patterned papers in lively colors. Notice it’s organized in a vertical format with tall stems and flower tops in circles.
It looks like an easy project that would appeal to everyone, no matter what their skill level. I brought my sample to class – along with a copy of the printed Pinterest image.
Look closely at the Pinterest image. The green papers for the flower stems and leaves are probably thin tissue or wrapping paper. It looks like the papers were not glued down flat. Thin tissue papers are hard to cut, place and glue. Gift wrap papers are easier to cut and paste. I teach how to glue papers down flat. I experimented with both tissue paper, gift wrap, plus medium weight hand-painted papers.
The image here shows the beginning of the sample collage I prepared for the class. What you see is 9″ x 12″ green construction paper painted with black acrylic. If you look closely, you will notice some green shows through the black paint. The green paper flower stems are also done with acrylic paint on construction paper. Notice the flower stem papers are striped. I created stripes in 2 layers of paint and scratched in lines. Each class member got the black paper as their substrate – bottom collage layer. Each class member got painted papers in greens and yellow greens to cut into curvy flower stems and leaves.
I always create a sample for the class so I understand and can discuss the steps necessary to make the collage. My image is similar but different, presented for instructional purposes. I never assume anyone will copy the image. They never do. I discuss how to create personal papers for collage. I almost always have the class work with painted papers. The paint makes the papers strong and easy to cut and glue, plus the surface and colors are hand made and personal.
I added tissue paper flowers to the sample collage (see below), and decided to emphasize how to work with tissue paper in collage.
The image here shows a close up view of the finished sample collage, and how I cut and pasted leaves and flowers onto the stems. Notice the flowers are circles and ovals that overlap leaves and stems. I cut flowers from painted, printed and tissue papers. Notice how the black and yellow dot paper connects visually to the black background paper.
I did an in-class demo to show how I paint construction paper with a small 2” wide sponge paint roller and acrylic paint. The roller applies paint in an even film and you can reuse the paint roller if you immediately wash it with soap and water. I did an in-class demo to show how to use white PVA glue to collage with medium weight papers, and how to use white fluid acrylic medium to create collage with delicate tissue papers.
The image at right shows a tissue paper collage I created during class as a demo. Notice how overlapping tissue papers create subtle color variations – probably because of the way the acrylic medium was applied. Thicker glue application connects papers closer to the layer below. Thinner glue application leaves a little air pocket so the paper dries closer to the original color. FYI: The process of gluing tissue papers down is not difficult. Place papers one at a time exactly where you want and carefully brush acrylic medium over the top and beyond the edges slightly. Add papers one at a time. The glue seeps through the thin paper to the bottom layer and will dry clear.
Following are student images from the 1st class, and my comments about each collage.
The image at left is by Bernice. I think she really liked how the black background showed through the tissue papers and created surprise textures. Notice 5 flowers on tall stems. Each flower is different, left to right – yellow, yellow, black and yellow, blue and green. Notice how the black and yellow center flower seems to disappear into the background and only the yellow dots show.
This collage is done in a horizontal format, but strong diagonals keep it dramatic and dynamic.
The image at right is by Carol. She has a strong love of natural images and landscape. It shows.
Notice how she cut her flower shapes. Notice she also tore papers in a way to create white edges that contrast beautifully with the papers below and the black background. She layered painted papers and tissue papers. The green flower stems show vertical stripes – these are the same painted papers I brought to class. In Carol’s collage, verticals compliment horizontals, balanced by gentle diagonals and negative spaces between stems and petals. Notice how a single band of thin dark green tissue paper is placed under flowers in the middle section, and how 2 dark thin green tissue paper strips cover 2 flowers and leaves at the top.
There is a sense of gentle motion. Everything is connected. It feels like a waterscape.
The image on the left is by Vivienne. Her paper format is vertical. The collage design is horizontal. Vivienne always selects collage papers in colors and shapes that express a beautiful visual design. Every paper is cut, placed and glued with care. Notice the lively texture in the teal, brown and green tissue papers glued at top, middle and bottom where the black substrate shows through. Notice how she created positive and negative space around her cut and pasted papers. Notice how the green flower stems curve, touch and overlap. Colors are coral pink, yellow, teal, green, brown, black and orange. Every shape holds its own space. Horizontals balance verticals.
It’s active, decorative, and elegant.
The image at right is by Jennifer. Colors are yellow, pink, green and red against a black background. Each circle has a unique shape, color and pattern. Some are wider. Some are taller. Some are nearer; some are further behind. The space is horizontal and not too deep. All collage papers overlap. Leaf stems tilt gently. Notice Jennifer’s flowers have large center discs (eyes) created with paper that’s printed in black with yellow dots. Every paper is cut or torn to create rippled or soft edges. The green leaf stems have a yellow under-layer that glows against the black background.
The design is animated, papers are textured, and the colors are fun to see.
Jennifer took the class images with my cell phone camera. She did a really good job and I thank her.
Please add your comments. Try the flower collage project with tissue papers, and let me know if you create with painted papers.
April 30, 2014
ABOUT FACE – Amazing Unique Collage and Assemblage Sculpture
Collage enthusiasts – if you want to see important contemporary and historic collage, and also want to see assemblage and mixed media installation, go to the Pavel Zoubok Gallery in Chelsea, 531 West 26 Street, NYC. . Every month the gallery showcases artists who explore and extend the boundaries of these media. See more information about the gallery here.
I went to the gallery to see collages by Ivan Chermayeff. I’ve been a fan of this artist’s work for years. The exhibition (March 20-April 19, 2014) also included his wood assemblage. My image above shows the gallery installation of 3 Chermayeff wood sculptures on white pedestals. It also shows framed collage portraits installed on the rear wall.
This is collage sculpture. Notice the work is assembled with pieces of found, carved and painted wood. Chermayeff juxtaposes old materials and objects like toys, tools, river stones, sandpaper, and brushes to create heads and torsos. Each sculpture (like each collage) has a unique personality. Notice the 2 figures and face are embellished with painted wood in red, white and blue for eyes, noses, lips, ears, hats and anatomical parts. Sorry you can’t walk around the sculpture to see them in person.
I love the tall sculpture on the left in the photo. He has a protruding wood nose that reminds me of a handle on a big coffee mug. His lips are pressed together, and almost touching his nose. You can read whatever you like into his expression. That’s what makes the sculpture so interesting.
DowntownMagazineNYC reviewed the exhibition that showcased works by Ivan Chermayeff (b 1931, London, UK) and photocollage by Witold Gordon (b. Warsaw, Poland, 1885-1968). In the review, Xavi Ocana wrote (March 20, 2014): Chermayeff has the ability to take the ordinary and turn it into the extraordinary, a perfect equation of the playful plus the poetic. Read the exhibition review here.
The image above is titled BOY WITH SAM’S HAND, collage, 30×22 (1999). Notice the figure is made from an old corrugated cardboard box that is opened flat. Chermayeff kept the original cancelled stamps and brown tape on the cardboard. The red stamps are now Sam’s eyes. One of the blue mailing labels is his nose. There’s a black line in exactly the right place for a mouth. Chermayeff added cut black paper for shoulders, and pink semi-circles for ears. Notice the painted child’s handprint. That must be Sam’s “signature.”
SMILE and LOOK CLOSE
The image above is titled GIRL (2000), collage, 14 x 11 inches. It’s so simple and so very clever and witty. The shapes are dots, semi-circles and rectangles. The girl’s face is a grey paper rectangle and her eyes are round grey dots. See the gold and blue cut papers – semi-circles that are ears and a hat.
Notice her blue dress. It’s the same crayon blue paper as the “hat” and reveals a photo of deep cleavage showing through the V neckline in the dress. What a girl! The best part – her “mouth” is actually a photo of an eyelash. At first glance, you see a curved black line. It’s a happy-face smile. Then you notice it’s a fringe of eyelash in a closed eye. Very demure. How witty! My reaction: it’s a Mona Lisa smile. What is she hiding?
He collects garbage like crazy
In interviews, Chermayeff admits he has drawers full of old envelopes and postage stamps, and recycles gloves people drop and leave behind. His approach to collage is spontaneous. He says. “What I’m playing with is making new visual connections. That’s what my collages are all about.” Chermayeff’s people are made from letterheads and labels, pebbles and Polaroid prints and stuff from the office recycling bin. The craftsmanship is meticulous, pristine and clean. They are not garbage.
The image above is titled Red Talker, collage, 15×11 inches, 1995. Notice the colors: black, white, red and a peachy-tan. The portrait is all torn and cut papers in geometric shapes: squares, rectangles, circles and triangles. The portrait is facing right, and wears a hat. He has a large white dot for an eye.
Notice some papers have tiny punched holes and show the white through. One collage paper is a printed bullseye with black concentric circles on a peachy tan background. There are multiple tiny holes punched in a horizontal line marching across the bullseye to meet a larger white dot in the outer black circle. See more punched holes in the red paper rectangle touching the bullseye paper. Notice the mouth is a torn red and white business form – probably a mailing label.
Did You Know?
Ivan Chermayeff is world famous as a designer and cofounder (1957) of the firm Chermayeff & Geismar, that produced the iconic logos we all know: NBC, PBS, CBS, Mobile Oil, Chase Manhattan Bank, National Geographic, the Museum of Modern Art and more. He graduated from Yale University and began his career designing book covers and album covers. He is most famous for his logos, but also does collage and has exhibited in museums and galleries all over the world.
The image above is the PBS logo (Public Broadcasting System) the firm designed in 1983. Image: courtesy Pinterest
According to artsy.net, Chermayeff (born 1932, London, UK) is an artist who rotates through multiple media. His strength as a designer and illustrator are equally present in his collage and printmaking media. They say, the works are ingenious and complex even though they look simple. Read more here.
Ivan Chermayeff says “collages make it possible for everything to be something else.” That’s the essence of our contemporary lives.
I talked to Pavel Zoubok at the gallery and learned so much about the artist and the art works. It was a great opportunity to speak with an expert. Zoubok is a passionate advocate for collage and has devoted his career to promoting this genre. Here’s a quote: Zoubok says we live in a cut and paste world. Isn’t that the essence of contemporary life? That is the essence of collage. Zoubok also believes collage is manifest in the digital culture that is transforming our society. I absolutely agree.
Tell me what you think.