In terms of collage
June 7, 2018 - August 31, 2018
David Castillo Gallery, Miami Beach
In terms of collage explores the expanded possibilities of collage as medium, pictorial strategy, and storytelling device in the 21st century.
The legacy of collage is codified alongside that of the readymade. Emerging in Western Europe following the first world war, the collage and readymade developed in the wake of the era’s brutal and unfortunate history: each violently rips objects and images from their stated, commonly understood contexts. Collage as a form takes this relationship a step further and actively fragments the dissociation between an image and its meaning, recombining various found imageries into new, disparate, and unfamiliar arrangements. German Dadaist Max Ernst spoke of collage as a radical technique “beyond painting” and traditional modes of representation:
The collage technique is the systematic exploitation of the accidentally or artificially provoked encounter of two or more foreign realities on a seemingly incongruous level—and the spark of poetry that leaps across the gap as these two realities are brought together.
Collage guides distinct imageries, references, and stories into unexpected contact, uncovering what, in Surrealist André Breton’s words, are “veritable slits in time, space, customs, and even beliefs.” In the early 20th century, collage was a revolutionary format that raised the populist aesthetics of magazines, print media, and other ephemera into the realm of art. In essence, collage was a tool used to question the very boundaries of art-making at the time. Later in the century, artists working across all media “turn[ed] to collage to respond to the possibilities and limits of an inescapable consumer culture,” argued David Banash in his book Collage Culture: Readymades, Meaning, and the Age of Consumption. And, as such, collage became a tactic for filtering, recycling, and transforming images in a culture bombarded by them.
Beyond the cut-and-paste terms of paper collage, the medium encounters a broadened and diversified terminology in the 21st century that welcomes a wider range of interdisciplinary activity. At the cross-section between collage as medium and collage as method, artists today approach a complex layering of images, media, cultures, and histories as expanded, post-media collage formats.
Sanford Biggers’ practice centers on the reclamation and reuse of Civil War-era quilts; although a matter of debate, quilts are said to have been used along the Underground Railroad to signal safe houses for escaping slaves. Biggers taps into this artifact of America’s racial history and layers it along a complex cultural collaging which brings personal, narrative, and even cross-cultural references into this legacy. Vista Trastevere (2017), named for the district in Rome, brings the quilt into an autobiographical context which makes reference to the artist’s recent time spent in Italy as a recipient of the 2017-18 Rome Prize. And the work Parallaxadaisical (2017) offers folded, sculptural forms that bring Biggers’ play with quilts into contact with the practice of Japanese origami.
Engaging collage across the visual and thematic antecedents of her practice, Kate Gilmore’s work synthesizes a variety of media in the legacies of action painting and feminist performance practices of the 1970s. In the performance A Roll in the Way (2014), Gilmore toils with paint-dipped logs as they roll and spread across a floor printed with the repeating word “way.” As Gilmore struggles and endures, the printed words beneath are slowly obscured as paint layers above.
Quisqueya Henriquez borrows and collages works from along the history of art to challenge its canon and grand narratives. In the work Carmen Herrera Inside Popova (2013), Henriquez layers a framed reproduction by Herrera, a Cuban-American abstract painter, within a pattern designed by Russian avant-garde artist Lyubov Sergeyevna Popova; while Lygia Clark/Helio Oiticica (2014) brings together graphics designed by the titular, mid-century, Brazilian artists. Henriquez engages a historical revisioning where she looks back on the past century of artistic production and redirects her audience’s attention towards art history’s overlooked figures.
Bringing found, physical objects into collaged forms, Pepe Mar’s works mine personal mythologies and those from throughout world religions. The titular character of Paprika I (2016) is one of the artist’s invented figures that recurs throughout his oeuvre. Playing with motifs of museum display and exhibition, Mar’s collages layer cut-outs of historical objects from beyond the Western canon alongside pottery and other physical artifacts in the same vein.
In terms of collage presents a cross-section between the medium as it is historically understood and its multiplicity of manifestations today; collaging beyond paper and as a framework for layering cultures, histories, and fantasies. As a reactive medium, collage is suited to the rapidly shifting imagery and modes of our media-centered age. And in light of its revolutionary origins, the practice of collage endures in its ongoing and radical redefinitions.