Master of Merz

March 17th, 2018

“Schwitters began making collages in 1918 and produced them in large numbers for the remainder of his career. In 1919 he began using the term ‘Merz’ (which originated from the German word ‘Kommerz’, meaning ‘commerce’) to describe his principle of assembling found materials.”
— Louise Hughes

Das Kirschbild — a fitting followup for the previous entry on abstraction.

And for those of us who never tire of learning new things about the incomparable Master of Merz:

from the Armitt Museum Collection in the Lake District

from the Tate Britain

from the Guggenheim

from the Sprengel Museum Hannover

Merzbild 32 A. Das Kirschbild ~ K Schwitters

Merzbild 32 A. Das Kirschbild
Kurt Schwitters, 1921
The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Abstraction in Collage

March 10th, 2018

“In the ’20s, dadaist Kurt Schwitters collected bits of detritus such as cigar bands and bus tickets and used them in collages. They were shocking then but with the passage of time have taken on the aura of classics: vibrantly colored and harmonious arrangements of abstract forms and only incidentally assemblages of junk.”
— John Ashbery

About a hundred years ago, a handful of Europeans had set out to invent what we now know as the medium of collage. Nearly all of them were painters. From the beginning, collage was rooted in modern art concepts that were emerging at the same time — the fundamentals of abstraction. Thus, the evolution of abstraction and collage in the 20th century are entwined, and remain so in a burst of contemporary activity in this post-centennial period. Next year will mark a full century of Merz. Artists working in collage abstraction carry the “creative code” of Kurt Schwitters and his seminal innovations. But, allow me to pause here and point out something that has become increasingly obvious: conventional art history was woefully male centered. Intentionally or not, the discipline would downplay or ignore many exceptional women artists, and that includes collage antecedents which were largely the domain of females, especially in the domestic or folk arts. For example, an interesting feature at highlights the forgotten art of Chinese textile collage. from his Cockatoo Series ~ an homage to Juan Gris by J CornellPicasso lifted visual ideas from tribal cultures. Cornell borrowed techniques tied directly to Victorian crafts. We understand that now. Modern art did not spring fully formed from the brow of Zeus like the armored goddess Athena. Fast forward to 2018. Many of the most accomplished and widely recognized collage artists of today are women. And the best part is that we know about them.

Melinda Tidwell is one of the dedicated abstractionists in collage that I enjoy following. She has a solid and very articulate designer “upstairs” guiding each decision, but her regard for the unexpected is a strong part of her intuition. Last summer, she published a two-part discussion of “order versus disorder” at her blogsite. It features abstractions by Lance Letscher and is well worth checking out.

Please indulge me as I share examples of collage abstraction from artists that continue to favorably capture my eye. Some of them range into mixed media in a way that remains very much collage. Other are strictly “painting with paper.”

Merz is alive and well in the 21st century, my friends.

(title unknown)
abstract collage by L Letscher

(title unknown)
abstract collage by M Tidwell

abstract collage by Z Collins

Elysburg IV
abstract collage by C Chapman

abstract collage by D McKenna

Osmosis 3
abstract collage by C Emeleus

abstract collage by W Strempler

abstract collage by S Kraft

from her series, BALANCE
abstract collage by S A Herman

Day 18 of 40
abstract collage by C Neubauer

Red Cottage — from her series, SENSE OF PLACE
abstract collage by P A Turner

(title unknown)
abstract collage by J C Martin

Reap ~ G Cooper

abstract collage by G Cooper

Cognitives and Conclusions
abstract collage by S Ringler

Dynamic Stability ~ J A Dixon

Dynamic Stability
abstract collage by J A Dixon

Scrutiny of the Leper

March 3rd, 2018

Scrutiny of the Leper ~ collage miniature by John Andrew Dixon ~ Danville, Kentucky ~ Kentucky Crafted Mixed Media Artist

Scrutiny of the Leper
collage miniature by J A Dixon
5 x 6.875 inches
available for purchase

a light of meaning . . .

February 28th, 2018

“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being.”
— Carl Gustav Jung

I come from a family heritage of people who have sought meaning in devotional activity. Whether or not I carry on their particular practice, a subconscious inheritance often bubbles to the surface through my creative rituals. I’ll leave it to others to suggest if any spark of light has been kindled. It would be gratifying to think so.
Uncle Art’s Homilies ~ J A Dixon

Uncle Art’s Homilies
collage miniature by J A Dixon
4 x 5 inches
available for purchase

20th-Century Man, 21st-Century Artist

February 21st, 2018

Earlier this month I had the privilege of attending a gallery talk by Kentucky artist Robert Hugh Hunt, as he outlined his ambitious “Twentieth-Century Icons” collage portrait project and described an attitude toward the medium that is profoundly thought provoking.

R H Hunt gallery talk at the Community Arts Center in downtown Danville, Kentucky









You may be aware of Robert from his long-running Hillbilly Voodoo collaboration with T R Flowers or the way he brings an individualistic mixed-media aspect to contemporary collage. Hunt and I have done our own collaborative works together and we share the experience of creating collage artwork in a geographic environment that often responds to the medium with a sense of bewilderment. Clearly, this circumstance is no impediment to the strong personal approach that runs through Robert’s body of work. He describes himself as a twentieth-century man, but his art is always fresh and intuitive. It springs from a deep cultural awareness that is inseparable from his creative identity.

Hunt told me that he thinks there is lot of negativity towards collage. “I hear people say that collage artists are only using something someone else has created,” he said. “The word appropriation is bandied about. This is true to a certain extent. Collage is a medium steeped in appropriation, and as such is delegated to the status of the red-headed stepchild of art. But to me collage or any medium has to transcend the material used to make it, to truly be art. It is the collage artist’s job to use the appropriated imagery, and, by changing and manipulating it, to relay his own message and to find his own voice.”

Katrien De Blauwer recently brought our attention to the same topic with a link to this page at WIDEWALLS, where Elena Martinique suggests that the term adoption is “more appropriate to describe the level of care one should take when using someone else’s creativity” as a point of takeoff. Many of us who pay attention have seen collage after collage that exploits a prominently featured, “load-bearing” image, with trite or superficial treatments that rely almost solely on the power or interest of a photographer’s or illustrator’s invested creativity. Most of us probably started out this way, and it can be initially absolved in student work. Professional or serious amateur collage artists must hold themselves to a much higher standard.

Perhaps that is why I lean toward “maximalism” in my own work. I don’t know what I would say to other creative people if they called me on merely tweaking their intellectual property with a note of irony, humor, or cosmic wonder. Robert Hugh Hunt’s in-process portrait of the 14th Dalai Lama ~ newest addition to his ‘20th-Century Icons’ seriesI have great respect for collage minimalists who bring a consistent level of innovation to work that actually transcends the component parts.

Robert Hugh Hunt moves from minimalism to maximalism with a particular voice that defies imitation. In the tradition of fine art collage, the unique instrumental sound of “Robbo” is heard above whatever compilation of raw ingredients he puts to use. But, for me, there is another dimension that is also present — an authenticity rooted in drawing that cannot be imposed with a contrived “outsider” style. I look forward with high anticipation to how he brings all of this capability to his emerging series of famous faces.


EinsteinTeddyAliAnne Frank
mixed media collage portraits by R H Hunt
16 x 20 inches each, 2014-2017

(below) R H Hunt at the Community Arts Center with his
in-process portrait of the 14th Dalai Lama

R H Hunt with his in-process portrait of the 14th Dalai Lama

Mama’s Story ~ R H Hunt

Mama’s Story
monochromatic collage by R H Hunt

collaborative collage on playing cards from ‘Hillbilly Voodoo’ series ~ R H Hunt and T R Flowers

collaborative collage
from ‘Hillbilly Voodoo’ series
R H Hunt and T R Flowers

The Story ~ R H Hunt The Five of Arts ~ R H Hunt Let Dad Live ~ R H Hunt
Struggling Man Upon the Rock ~ R H Hunt The Number ~ R H Hunt The Death Of Billy ~ R H Hunt
His Big Day ~ R H Hunt Thirst ~ R H Hunt

mixed media collage by R H Hunt
(click each to view larger)

Be mine . . .

February 14th, 2018

Valentines by John’s Haus of Cards!

Valentines by John’s Haus of Cards!

Coordinates Askew

February 12th, 2018

Coordinates Askew ~ collage miniature by John Andrew Dixon ~ Danville, Kentucky ~ Kentucky Crafted Mixed Media Artist

Coordinates Askew
collage miniature by J A Dixon
6.125 x 7.0625 inches
available for purchase

February 7th, 2018

Happy Birthday to Meg Higgins, an exceptional collage artist!

Love of Beer ~ series Pi ~ from John’s Haus of Cards!

Love of Beer
collage on Samuel Adams coaster, 4 x 4 inches
Haus of Cards, series Pi, J A Dixon
collection of M Higgins

details of Wetland

February 5th, 2018

“It’s always better not to talk about it. Just f—ing do it. Don’t ’splain it. Especially if you’re getting away with it.”
— Harrison Ford

I stopped by the exhibition where Wetland is on display and made a few phone-camera croppings. I guess that I wouldn’t have a blog if I usually didn’t like to talk about my work, but, since I’m not in a wordy mood, I’ll let the images speak for themselves this time. Thanks for looking! The show in downtown Danville lasts until February 24th.
details of Wetland ~ a collage landscape by John Andrew Dixon

details of Wetland ~ a collage landscape by John Andrew Dixon

details of Wetland ~ a collage landscape by John Andrew Dixon

details of Wetland ~ a collage landscape by John Andrew Dixon

details of Wetland ~ a collage landscape by John Andrew Dixon

Wetland (five details)
collage landscape by J A Dixon
21.25 x 19.25 inches
on structured panel, framed
available for purchase

Star Baby Feline

February 3rd, 2018

Star Baby Feline ~ collage miniature by J A Dixon ~ a salute to the 70th birthday of Burton Cummings

Star Baby Feline
collage miniature by J A Dixon
4.25 x 4.25 inches

a salute to the 70th birthday of Burton Cummings

Suspend this series?

January 28th, 2018

“When I begin a new work, I have to start from scratch again, from nothing. I have to be cleared of everything: Tabula rasa.”
— Arvo Pärt

Suspend the Bibelot Series? It doesn’t look like it. I begin a collage artwork with no preconceived notions and before long it appears to be a “bibelot.” Spontaneity apparently works that way, revealing some unmet creative urge that is removed from conscious awareness. Shall I ever purposely end a particular series? More likely than not, I’ll just come to the conclusion that there are no more variations on that theme with a need to emerge — until I am proven wrong.
Suspend (Bibelot 013) ~ a collage miniature by John Andrew Dixon ~ part of his Bibelot Series

Suspend (Bibelot 013)
collage miniature by J A Dixon
4.625 x 4.625 inches
Purchase this artwork.