I used the phrase “Collage Artist Extraordinaire” to describe Ivan Chermayeff in my review of the exhibition ABOUT FACES (March 20-April 19, 2014) at the Pavel Zoubok Gallery at 531 West 26 Street, in NYC. Read it here.

Pavel Zoubok says: no art form expresses the character of the twentieth century and the contemporary moment with greater clarity and immediacy than the art of collage. The Gallery is the place to go if you are a fan. The exhibition calendar includes both historic and contemporary collage artists. Read more here.

I’ve been a fan of Ivan Chermayeff’s collages for years and years, but only saw reproduction in art magazines. ABOUT FACES included collage and assemblage (sculpture). Each wood assemblage included found wood and objects like toys, tools, river stones, sandpaper, and/or brushes.  Two works included a found glove that became a face portrait.

 

Ivan Chermayeff sculpture at the Pavel Zoubok Gallery

Ivan Chermayeff sculpture at Pavel Zoubok Gallery

My photo (above) shows the gallery installation with 3 wood assemblages by Ivan Chermayeff. Titles are: (left) Janus Head with Canoe Hat, (center) Portrait with Pincushion Cap, and (right) Young Person with Hairless Brush Head. I’ve included solo images (two views) for each sculpture below. All images are courtesy the Pavel Zoubok Gallery. Sculpture should be seen in person, where you can walk around and see different views. The front and back are sometimes very different in Chermayeff’s assemblage.

 

Ivan Chermayeff, Janus Head with Canoe Hat, mixed media assemblage

Ivan Chermayeff, Janus Head with Canoe Hat, mixed media assemblage

The image (above) is titled Janus Head with Canoe Hat (2000-2005), mixed-media assemblage, 23 ½ x 8 ½ x 8 ½ inches.  Click on the image and enlarge it to see more detail. Look at the nose. I think it looks like the handle on a coffee mug, big enough for you to put your hand through. Notice the hat is actually a little carved wood canoe. Notice the lips on the mouth are wood and painted red. Look at his expression. I think he looks grumpy or is sulking. Read whatever you like into his expression.

 

The image (below) is a profile view of the same sculpture, and, when you look up, you see the bottom of the canoe on his head. I think the wavy blue painted wood on the side is shaped like a child’s drawing of waves in the ocean. You don’t see the waves in the image above, but you can see the shape better in the image below.

Ivan Chermayeff, profile view of Janus Head with Canoe Hat, mixed media assemblage

Ivan Chermayeff, profile view of Janus Head with Canoe Hat, mixed media assemblage

 

What’s in a name?

 

I checked Wikipedia for information about Janus – the ancient Roman god of doors, passages, endings and times (representing war and peace). FYI: The month of January is named for Janus. Janus is usually represented with two faces. I wonder if Chermayeff named his wood sculpture Janus because the sculpture includes part of an old wood door. Read more about the god Janus here.

 

Ivan Chermayeff, Red Talker, collage

Ivan Chermayeff, Red Talker, collage

He collects garbage like crazy.

I include a collage (above) titled Red Talker, 15×11 inches (1995). Chermayeff says he collects garbage like crazy. According to the Gallery press release, his collages include the stuff of everyday life: scraps of paper, stamped envelopes, tickets, photographs and other discarded oddments that become juxtaposed compositions of color and form. Chermayeff says: “A little spot, whether a postage stamp, a graphic mark, a letter of the alphabet, a splash of color becomes a nose, an eye or a mouth. In the right place, more or less, it becomes a face…that is both recognizable and rewarding. When a face is there, it has its own reality, whether recognized or not, much like strangers passing in the street.”  Read Gallery comments here.

 

Notice the colors in Red Talker: black, white, red and a peachy-tan. The portrait is all torn and cut papers in geometric shapes: squares, rectangles, circles and triangles. He’s facing right, and wears a hat. He has a large white dot for an eye. His mouth is a torn red and white address sticker. See more gallery images here.

 

The image (below) is a front-facing view of Chermayeff’s mixed media assemblage titled Portrait with Pincushion Cap (2000-2005), 13 x 8 ½ x 3 inches. Notice the deep grain in the wood and how the artist used smooth round white river stones for eyes. The stones are different sizes.  The larger one faces vertical and the smaller one faces horizontal. The mouth is wood painted red. Ears appear on the side of the rectangular head as semi circles painted black. The pincushion cap (painted silver and blue) is another toy wood canoe sitting across the top of his head.

 

Ivan Chermayeff, Portrait with Pincushion Cap, mixed media assemblage

Ivan Chermayeff, Portrait with Pincushion Cap, mixed media assemblage

 

The image (below) is the rear view of Portrait with Pincushion Cap. Click on the image to enlarge it. Notice the rough surface texture in the wood in this view. There’s a deep recess gouged into the wood. I see a different face. The eyes are still white river stones, but they look tiny. The mouth is part of a negative space so it looks like his mouth is open. The “nose” is a rosy red blobby shape stuck into the gouged surface. The ears are gone, replaced with a solid black band of wood with rounded ends and now looks like a hat. The toy wood canoe (pincushion) sits on top.  I think he looks like a drunken Russian sailor or an old Viking. It’s another Janus with two faces.

 

Ivan Chermayeff, another view, Portrait with Pincushion Cap, mixed media assemblage

Ivan Chermayeff, another view, Portrait with Pincushion Cap, mixed media assemblage

 

Two images (below) are front and side views of the mixed media assemblage titled Young Person with Hairless Brush Head, 24 x 15 ½ x 4 ½ inches (2000-2005). Notice Chermayeff added wood dowels for this portrait’s 2 arms.  The Head is an irregular shaped rectangle. It’s an old hairless brush with 27 holes in 3 vertical rows.  There’s a painted red wood dowel planted across the top of his head and a painted red block projecting between his legs. The wood figure looks like he’s wearing cut-off pants. His feet are thin black metal rods that run down to a square metal base. What do you see? I see a portrait of a young boy. Do you think the sculpture is innocent and childlike?  I think maybe not.

 

Ivan Chermayeff, Young Person with Hairless Brush Head, mixed media assemblage

Ivan Chermayeff, Young Person with Hairless Brush Head, mixed media assemblage

 

Ivan Chermayeff, side view of Young Person with Hairless Brush Head, mixed media assemblage

Ivan Chermayeff, side view of Young Person with Hairless Brush Head, mixed media assemblage

 

Ivan Chermayeff’s fine art collages and assemblage sculptures have been exhibited throughout the United States and internationally. His next exhibition will be in the UK. He is best known as a designer and illustrator. With Tom Geismar, he founded the design firm Chermayeff & Geismar (1957), and the logos they’ve designed are recognized worldwide.

FINAL THOUGHTS: See it in Person

 

In my previous post, I wrote you have to see Chermayeff’s assemblage sculpture in person and walk around to view the work from every angle.  I hope the additional images here gave you more information. Please add your comments below. Do you like this artist’s mixed media assemblage? Do you prefer the collages? Do you think assemblage is 3D collage?

 

 

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Pancho Villa Dead and Alive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Embellish the Media

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WILL YOU BE IN NEW YORK FOR CHRISTMAS?

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

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

FINAL THOUGHTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In my last post, I wrote about the opening reception and an upcoming event (annual benefit) Signed Sealed and Delivered (Saturday, October 5, 2013) – all at the Silvermine Arts Center in New Canaan, CT.

The current galleries have 2 solo shows and 2 group shows (September 15-October 26, 2013) with a lot of installation art. It’s so contemporary. The works are exquisitely presented – so typical for Silvermine gallery exhibitions. My last post included images at the gallery receptions.

Silvermine Arts Center is located at 1037 Silvermine Road, New Canaan, CT.  The exhibits run from September 15, 2013 through October 26, 2013.  Gallery hours: Wednesday-Saturday: 12pm-5pm, Sunday: 1pm-5pm. For more information about exhibitions, call 203.966.9700 or visit the Silvermine Art Center website.

Gallery view, 10"x10" art

Gallery view, 10″x10″ art

I think installation is contemporary art –  and what makes it most contemporary is that, whether we know it or not, we are all part of the show.  If the installation is participatory, we are encouraged to walk into the space, even touch and move elements in the exhibition.

The image nearby shows a contemporary installation with 10″x10″ works on wood panels, hung in parallel horizontal rows around the gallery space. It’s a preview for Signed Sealed and Delivered at Silvermine Art Center on Saturday evening October 5, 2013 (5:00-7:00 pm).

Question: Is my photo about the people looking at the art – or is the photo about the art? I think the former. In any case, the viewers were engaged. There were a lot of people looking at the art during the reception. This photo shows only two. If I took the photo with more people looking at the art, you wouldn’t even see the art. That’s what happens at a crowded reception. It’s exciting to be there, but you don’t see the art well, so you have to return for a better view at a quieter time.

Here’s a pitch to support the arts: Purchase tickets online for the October 5th Silvermine Arts Center wine & hors d’oeuvres party. Tickets are $35 per person – and new this year – the show and sale includes 10″x10″ original works on panel in addition to 100s of 4”x6” works of 2D and 3D art. Buy smaller 4″x6″ art for $50 each. Buy 3 small works, you get the 4th free.

Add $100 to your $35 ticket and choose a 10”x10” original work of art, average value is $300 that will be raffled during the evening. Preview the raffle collection at Silvermine (thru October 3). See works online.  The Saturday evening gala event is always well attended. Order your tickets before they are sold out.

I donated artwork: one work (titled Cellblock) is part of the 10″x10″ raffle. It’s a white and black collage, made with papers wrapped and glued over recycled 35 mm transparencies. See it at the gallery preview (thru October 3rd). Four of my 4″x6″ collages will be for sale (see images below).

Installation Art Makes Us See in a New Way

Beyond the Book installation view

Beyond the Book installation view

The image nearby is a view of  Beyond the Book I took at Silvermine Art Center a few days after the opening receptions. I went back to get images of the art without people. I wanted to show you how I see the art installed. Notice the horizontals and diagonals in the photo. Notice the forms projecting in space and the angles between.

That’s the way we see the whole picture. We think we are looking at one work, but in reality (the way the brain works) we are looking at everything at the same time. It all has to work together or the installation will look wrong.

Looking involves moving. As we move to get closer, and as we step back, the whole picture changes based on “sight lines.” Objects that have a direct line of sight with one another are said to be inter-visible.

We don’t just look straight ahead or move our eyes across and around the site. We may look up (how high are the works placed in relation to the floor and the ceiling?). Some installation works literally climb up the wall. In fact, that’s the way we see the exquisite installation by Amy Bilden in her current Silvermine solo exhibition titled Inheritance.

In the image above (the installation shows works by Sheila Hale and Stephanie Joyce), Sheila’s book sculpture is viewed by looking up and down. You have to see it in motion. But, your eyes are doing the moving.

Installation for a Lot of Small Works

Signed Sealed and Delivered, 2012

Signed Sealed and Delivered, 2012

The image nearby is the installation for Signed Sealed and Delivered (2012). You can see how many works are included. When you arrive, your eyes scan the entire arrangement of 2D and 3D works installed in rows.

The images below are my 4 small collages created for the gala fundraiser this October. Each is a unique work, made with tiny pieces of cut and pasted magazine papers and over-layered tiny pieces of thin, translucent white Japanese rice paper. The layered rice papers created geometric shapes and outlines in different shades of white, depending on how many paper layers I used.

I hope you can come see them in person on October 5th. They will be placed in different locations in the exhibition space, included with small works by many other Silvermine artists.The images below show how I Iayered the collage papers. Layering is an expression of how I see.

nikkal, collage 1, 2013

Nikkal, collage, 2013

Nikkal, collage, 2013

Nikkal, collage, 2013

Nikkal, collage, 2013

Nikkal, collage, 2013

Nikkal, collage 2013

Nikkal, collage 2013

Thank you for reading. As always, I welcome your comments. I like to think about how we see art, and about how we see everything.  The picture is always moving – it’s a view from a moving object: you in the car, train or plane; a view of moving people and ojbects: people on cars, bicycles, skates. It’s a moving image: a movie, TV, a video online, you at a sports event (in the stands, on the field), you at the  theater, or people moving as we take in the view.

We live in a super-saturated visual environment. Images are non-stop. I say it’s a cut and paste world filled with images. We put all the images together. We complete the image. It’s all a collage.

Please tell me your thoughts. Do you have a special insight about how we see? I hope you will share.

Share the Love

February 19, 2013

Thursday, Feb 14 was Valentines Day. I hope everyone was able to share the love.

I was in NYC that day walking on Fifth and Madison Avenues from Grand Central Terminal to 34th Street. All the shops, department stores, and restaurants had red heart-shaped helium-filled balloons and red flowers in tubs in their windows or just outside on a sidewalk table.

People were walking hand in hand. Some were carrying flower bouquets to take to the office or home. I saw a little boy holding flowers wrapped in clear plastic. He held the flowers in one hand and held his father’s hand in another. I imagine he was bringing flowers home to his mother.

NYC was one big Valentine.

The image below is one of four collages I am sharing in this blog. All four images are titled Barneys because the collages exist in a Barneys New York shoe and boot catalog.

I received the catalog in the mail, and thought it was a perfect way to recycle consumer media with collage. The catalog is still a work in progress. I sometimes show the catalog to my students when I discuss how important it is to recycle postcards, catalogs, books and junk mail. It’s so easy to add images to existing backgrounds. And the paper is free.

Nancy Egol Nikkal, Barneys 1, collage, 9x16 inches 2010

Nancy Egol Nikkal, Barneys 1, collage, 9×16 inches 2011

Being in NYC on Valentines Day made me think about sharing the love, and that made me think about important blog advice from a great source – Alyson B. Stanfield and her Art Biz Blog. She offers great tips on marketing (and more).

I’m an expert at collage and want to share my ideas about the art of collage. In 2009 I started to write my blog. I was a newbie at blogs.

I took an online workshop with Alyson B. Stanfield and Cynthia Morris in 2010 called Blog Triage. I posted several blogs as assignments for the workshop.

The 1st lesson was titled Who I am Writing For. I wrote about a friend (Sylvia) who loves design and creates jewelry. Sylvia says I should include more personal content. If you want to read the blog, here’s a link to that post

The 3rd lesson “Your About Page – The Heart of Your Blog” included a link to my collage workshops site where you can read that I say my life is about glue (because I like to put things together).

Nancy Egol Nikkal, Barneys 3, collage, 9x16 inches, 2010

Nancy Egol Nikkal, Barneys 3, collage, 9×16 inches, 2011

The 6th lesson was titled “Cure Yourself of Blog Envy” and asked us to find blogs that inspire us – in my case – artist’s blogs where the content and images are presented beautifully.

I included a link to Gwyneth’s Full Brew. The artist writes “… I am documenting the intersection of art-making and art-seeing, daily life in New York City and…my drawing surface of choice since 2007 is the cardboard coffee cup.” Gwyneth Leech has had incredible exhibition success with her up-cycled coffee cup installations. She also takes wonderful photos of NYC and documents great places for a cup of tea or coffee.

At Blog Triage, I learned the best blogging serves your reader and includes links to useful information. The course included 20 assignments. Assignment #10 was titled “Show Some Link Love” – about including good links.

I always remind myself to share the links and share the love.

The image below is another one of four collages titled Barneys pasted inside the catalog. One page is about night and the other page is about day. The red lips are a huge kisser.

Nancy Egol Nikkal, Barneys 2, collage, 9x16 inches, 2010

Nancy Egol Nikkal, Barneys 2, collage, 9×16 inches, 2011

Sending comments is another way to share the love.

I got email recently (Feb 10, 2013) from Douglas Beaudry. He has a blog titled The Bearing Edge and designs and sells skate-influenced custom jewelry (wrist cuffs made with leather fashioned with recycled derby and skateboard bearings) – really cool.

He commented on an old blog that I posted November 30, 2010 in which I asked and answered a question.

Question: How Are the Best Blogs Like a Great Collage?

Answer: The best blogs are good looking, engaging, multi-media, explore new ideas, and like the best art, invite you to share the experience!

That’s my concept for really good collage. Collage is layered.

Douglas Beaudry commented: What a great blog post and certainly served to clear my brain a little bit.

I thanked him for the compliment. I don’t know how my post cleared his brain.

I re-read the blog How Are The Best Blogs…. Basically – it included a lot of links and was all about sharing links.

The original blog included a link to the artist Robert Rauschenberg who had an exhibition at Gagosian Gallery in NYC. I included a link to a Nov 26, 2010 NY Times Holland Cotter review of the exhibition. Both links are repeated here. The Gagosian Gallery link connects to works by Rauschenberg. The NY Times link is so well written it is still valuable to read. Robert Rauschenberg is one of the most important artists of the 20th century. He has influenced so many artists who followed.

The Barneys 4 collage seen below is in black and white and in color over a background that turned from amber yellow to bronze. I used magazine images that were printed in color and black and white. The models are a mix and match of men and women. I wanted the focus on the eyes. They are looking at me and you.

Nancy Egol Nikkal, Barneys 4, collage, 9x16 inches, 2011

Nancy Egol Nikkal, Barneys 4, collage, 9×16 inches, 2011

If you think you want to update or improve your blog (or want to start to blog), I recommend the self-study Blog Triage workshop. Check it out… There are so many ways to do a blog, depending on the audience you are writing for.

Following are comments about the media I use.

My substrate (background for the collage) in these 4 works was a high fashion Barneys New York catalog I got in the mail. I wish I could get more. I only got one.

My collage papers were from magazines like W, Interview and ArtForum.

I added text and line drawings because I love words, letters and graphic patterns and love to mix drawing, pencil, ink and printed media.

I thought about how to marry the old image with the new image and how the content changed with the overlays.

I thought about how the 2 pages had to work together and how all the pages had to work as you leafed through the catalog.

Collage is about juxtaposition.

I love juxtaposing images and making it into a commentary on our consumer culture. I wanted the images to become edgy.

Thanks for reading and thanks for your comments. If you have questions about collage, you can email me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

MIX IT UP MULTI MEDIA

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

class collage project

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

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

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

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

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

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

LAYERS LAYERS LAYERS

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

class collage project

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

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

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

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

class collage project

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

COLLAGE TO TELL A STORY

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

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

THE POWER OF ONE COLOR

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

class collage project

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

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

class collage project

CONCLUSION

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

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

COLLAGE ALL MIXED UP

July 12, 2012

The Exquisite Corpse was the theme for last week’s collage class – Embellish An Image Play With Collage – at the Pelham Art Center.

What is the Exquisite Corpse?

It’s a multi-part poem or image.

The Exquisite Corpse was very popular in the early 20th century with Surrealist poets and visual artists.

Exquisite Corpse is a collective collage (a group project) with words or images. In France, it’s called Cadavre Exquis.

If the collage was poetry, each person wrote a phrase on a sheet of paper, folded the paper to conceal what they had written, and passed the paper to the next player to add a new phrase.

If the collage was visual art, each person drew on a sheet of paper, folded the paper to conceal their drawing, and passed the paper to the next player. No one was allowed to peek until the game was completed and the project was complete.

The image below is in 4 parts and from Tammy Christel’s Jackson Hole art blog (Abstract Art in Wyoming at the J.H. Muse Gallery).

4 part exquisite corpse

An Exquisite Corpse image could be disconcerting – and it was meant to be. The Surrealists held the view that human nature is irrational fundamentally. Surrealist artists include Max Ernst, Salvador Dali, Joan Miro and Andre Masson.  Read more

See the image below by Max Ernst (German, 1891-1976). Ernst titled his collage Santa Conversazione (1921) and assembled the collage with fragments  of images from encyclopedias, commercial catalogs and photographs. He included birds and a button. The juxtaposition of images and the title make the work confrontational and give it the Surrealist edge.

Max Ernst, Santa Conversazione

I brought the book ALL MIXED UP by Carin Berger to inspire the class. It’s a mix and match book.

The image below shows one layout page in the book with the words Robot Balances Playfully opposite illustrations. The author says the book allows you to create over 13,000 characters. I like the selection of words. I think they can jump-start the creative collage process.

pages in All Mixed Up by Carin Berger

ROBOT BALANCES PLAYFULLY

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

my collage

I had an image of machinery – a meter? It always knew it would become a face.

I played with the size of the original, scanned and reduced it so it would fit on the paper background (it’s the inside lining of a business envelope). I cut out a mouth from a Vogue Magazine model’s face. I cut out 2 eyes (actually they were breasts in a Picasso abstract painting reproduced in a recent issue of Art in America Magazine).

That became the top section – a Robot’s face.

I found an image of a seesaw online and added color to the black and white background.  I like the fact that it’s graphic. It became the middle section and represents the robot’s midsection – and the word Balances.

I found an image of clown’s shoes online and added them to papers for the bottom section. The clown’s shoes stand in for the word Playfully.

Even though the class asked to do the Exquisite Corpse project, they didn’t do it and they didn’t finish the class project.

Finding images and cutting out images was time consuming (it takes a lot of time to find the right images). Many of the images were the wrong scale – too large.

I spoke with students about how to begin their collage and recommended placing background papers first to define the 3 separate segments. I thought it would help get organized.

I think it is much easier to begin a collage with background papers and then add images. They all wanted to work on the stark white substrate paper.

A COLLAGE CALLED TROUBLE

The 3 images below are collages in a series titled Trouble. Each is a variation on the preceding one, and each has one element in common – the torso (middle section) is the same.

my collage titled Trouble 6

I found background papers in art magazines. I found figures, faces, hands and shoes in fashion magazines. I found text everywhere. I resized images to get the right scale. I scanned composite images, printed them on good paper, and added more collage in smaller or larger scale.

my collage titled Trouble 11

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

my collage titled Trouble 2

I am reading a book now titled Dada and Surrealism: A Very Short Introduction,  by David Hopkins (Oxford University Press). It’s an historic overview and a good read. The author says for many people Dada and Surrealism represent not so much movements in 20th-century art history but “modern art” incarnate – a defining modernist sensibility. Artists assembled new structures from bits of paper (Kurt Schwitters, 1887-1948) or from pre-existing objects (Marcel Duchamp, 1887-1968).

In 21st -century America, supersaturated with imagery and concept, Duchamp and the readymade aesthetic still rules.

ASK ME.

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.

COLLAGE and JEAN ARP

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.

IT LOOKS EASY…LOOKS ARE DECEIVING

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 believe PLAY IS SERIOUS WORK.

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…