Archive for the 'G Braque' Category

Much more about JUXTAPOSE . . .

Monday, February 29th, 2016

Friend and fellow collage artist Kathleen O’Brien is in the midst of her countdown to a big solo show in April. She asked me to do a favor and share a guest review as part of her final promotions for JUXTAPOSE before Drawn to the Earth requires her full concentration. As excited as I am about the group exhibition in Danville, it was a tougher post to write than I first anticipated. Collage is not the easiest art form on which to expound, perhaps because it relies on the “logic” of irrational choices.

At any rate, my dedicating a blogsite to that very topic was nobody else’s idea, so I best not complain to those of you kind enough to visit here. Would I rather be making art? Of course. Even so, I cannot constrain my enthusiasm for all things collage. Here’s my take on a great show. Be forewarned: If you’re looking for some criticism, you won’t find it!

 

I’ll admit it. I can’t get enough of JUXTAPOSE. The current exhibition of collage and assemblage is at the Community Arts Center until April 2nd. That’s not exactly the most humble thing to say, considering it features a dozen works by yours truly, so I won’t pretend that I can offer an unbiased review. Program director Brandon Long has organized a finely curated, must-see destination that brings together over a thousand examples of the two associated mediums (literally, but I’ll explain that in a moment). This is an unprecedented group show for the Bluegrass-based artists involved, and I am thrilled to be exhibiting side-by-side with Kathleen O’Brien, Teri Dryden, Robert Hugh Hunt, Meg Higgins, Connie Beale, Cynthia Carr, and many others. No doubt my enthusiasm has something to do with its location less than a city block from my studio, which bestows the luxury of repeated immersions, and there is over a month left in the duration!

There are more participants than I can profile individually, and far too many artworks to highlight. The best example of this is a room devoted to three complete year-long series of collage-a-day works by O’Brien, Long, and Nan Martindale. Combined with almost one hundred seventy of Robert Hugh Hunt’s provocative collage collaborations, the magnitude of miniature artworks presented in a single space could be overwhelming. As an exhibition designer, Long uses geometric grids, browsing boxes, and two flat-screen displays to make the huge collection comprehensible for viewers. O’Brien’s sensitive, meticulously layered collection of daily two-sided postcards is a journey to which I surrender with pleasure each time I visit, but only after a jolting romp through Hunt’s rarely exhibited Hillbilly Voodoo series with T R Flowers.

An opportunity to view works by six outstanding Louisville-based artists is worth the trip to Danville. Several major works by Meg Higgins captured my first impression. Two enormous pieces composed with transparent elements sandwiched between Plexiglas are suspended between the vestibule and grand gallery. I was equally impressed by a smaller collage on wood panel, Japanese Peony Goes to Italy, with its exquisite East-West flavor. Brad Devlin’s solid but clever exploitation of found objects yields bold abstractions that simultaneously maintain a strong environmental essence. His Open Sunday is also physically more complex than it first appears, and this allows the artisanship of his assemblage to become a secondary experience deserving of scrutiny. Masters of juxtaposition who reinforce the theme of the exhibition as well as anyone taking part, Patrick Donley, Lisa Austin and Brandon Bass each define a distinctive individual style. Approach to composition, color considerations, and a playful choice of ingredients form undercurrents that tie their pieces together, and Long knows how to modulate the walls in a way that makes groupings of their work satisfying to study. Although she has recently gained attention for her paintings, there are at least seven panels by Teri Dryden from a handsome body of work created from discarded books. Her Monteith’s Marrakesh exemplifies how her investigation successfully transcended the source material. Personally, I hope she rotates to collage again for another dynamic round of re-purposing cast-off items.

detail from Reliquia ~ collage on framed panel by John A. DixonIn addition to displaying a pair of shadow boxes, my only surrealist assemblage, and six favorite collage miniatures, JUXTAPOSE provides an opportunity to exhibit Bull’s-eye Nosegay for the first time, which I created for the Target Practice Project initiated by L T Holmes. Also, I did two larger collage artworks especially for this show. Each makes more than a fleeting nod to artists who I admire. What is it about Cherry Balm that causes me to think I just might be “tipping my beret” to the inimitable Matthew Rose? Reliquia is my tribute to the late Fred Otnes, a giant within the medium who has been a force in my consciousness since adolescence. Pearallelograms was held over from the previous exhibition at the institution, but the crowning delight for me may well be the presence of Kentucky Madonna, last year’s “finish” by Robert Hugh Hunt to my “start.” The collaborative piece is a companion to one currently hanging with the IT TAKES TWO exhibition of collaborations at the Kentucky Artisan Center in Berea. Robert and I can’t ask for more than to know that both are now available for public observation (unless someone wants to give them a good home).

I am no art historian, but I can’t help but be mindful of the pioneering artists who laid a hundred-year foundation for the sweeping diversity of this exhibition. The creative innovations of Picasso, Braque, Duchamp, Schwitters, Höch, Cornell, Johnson, and Kolář reverberate throughout the building. In many respects, all contemporary collage/assemblage is a tacit homage to these seminal influences, but that is never the only thing at work nor the only phenomena to be perceived when one indulges an exhibition of this scope. Most artists are striving for a personal means of expression informed by those who have made their enduring mark on a medium. I am convinced, more than ever, that what distinguishes contemporary collage/assemblage artists is their keen connection to the mundane “stuff” of culture and the inner need to bring a measure of order and harmony from the sheer volume of material produced by our throw-away society, with its chaotic effect on our sensibilities — to create value where none exists, or to find wonder, meaning, significance, and beauty where none can be expected.
 

Japanese Peony Goes to Italy ~ Meg Higgins, Louisville, Kentucky

Japanese Peony Goes to Italy
Meg Higgins
collage on wood panel

Open Sunday ~ B Devlin

Open Sunday
Brad Devlin
assemblage, found objects

Strength ~ P Donley

Strength
Patrick Donley
mixed-media on wood

Bird’s Eye View ~ L Austin

Bird’s Eye View
Lisa Austin
collage

Monteith’s Marrakesh ~ T Dryden

Monteith’s Marrakesh
Teri Dryden
collage from discarded books on panel

Cherry Balm ~ John Andrew Dixon, collage artist, Danville, Kentucky

Cherry Balm
John Andrew Dixon
collage on canvas
available for purchase

Reliquia ~ John Andrew Dixon, collage artist, Danville, Kentucky

Reliquia
John Andrew Dixon
collage on framed panel
available for purchase

It’s a trip collage, man . . .

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

“It is the limitation of means that determines style, gives rise to new forms and makes creativity possible.”
– Georges Braque

From the first decision an artist makes when confronting a blank format, available options are eliminated. As contradictory as it may sound, writers, designers, musicians, dancers, visual artists — all of us find fertile ground in restriction. Working within limitations, self-imposed or otherwise, is always at the heart of the creative process. One of my preferred journal experiments is a variation I call the “trip collage.” Mind you, this has absolutely nothing to do with psychotropic escapades. However, I do periodically “expand my consciousness” of the medium with an exercise based on limited ingredients. When on holiday or outside the studio, I produce a small collage only with the elements immediately available at hand. Litter, junk mail, discarded packaging, or the detritus of a particular environment will become the instruments of a miniature orchestration. Even within this constraint, choices about what to use and what to ignore will govern the approach, and the interesting relationship between spontaneity and intuitive judgment can be observed.
 

Journal experiment ~ John Andrew Dixon

results of a “trip collage” exercise
journal experiment by J A Dixon
5.5 x 6.75 inches

Maximalism and Minimalism in Collage, part 2

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

“Transforming nothing into something is something of course, but because it’s a metaphor (let’s say it’s a reflection of life and death), doesn’t mean it’s especially important.”
— Matthew Rose

Is a pizza fundamentally more satisfying than a beer?

Perhaps this question is a peculiar way of following up on my previous post. The subject of maximalism and minimalism in collage is worth continuing, and I readily admit that our topic would benefit more from an interactive discourse than a single voice, but such is the nature of a blog that has yet to gain a participatory following. Nevertheless, I cannot drop the discussion without further remarks and, in particular, some worthy examples of each methodology.

Getting back to the opening query . . . There is nothing more inviting on a hot summer evening than a cold beer after a day of effort. It can immediately lose its appeal if flat or flavorless. A slice of pizza will look much better — steaming, fragrant, and loaded with toppings — but not if it is dry, overdone, or charred underneath. What I am trying to suggest with this oddball reference is the idea that a simple thing or a complex thing is not necessarily better than the other. It is all about how each is presented. And the most meaningful conclusion may be that both are enhanced when the two exist together. Whether you investigate Picasso, Braque, or Schwitters, it is clear that they thought of collage as an extension of painting, and how can one say that maximalism or minimalism in painting takes supremacy over the other? One cannot, of course, and either method is more interesting when the entire scale of approaches to the medium are continually explored (in some cases by the same artist). So, returning to my feeble analogy, we recognize that the combination of “good stuff” determines a synergistic effect. Collage as an art form is more vital today as a result of this diversity of orientation.

Our medium does not exist in a vacuum. Maximalism, minimalism, and everything in between is rooted in the movements of Dada, Surrealism, Constructivism, Expressionism, and Popism. One contemporary collage artist with a keen awareness of these influences is the “American in Paris,” Matthew Rose. He has created masterful works at multiple points in the spectrum of complexity, and a few examples appear below. In future entries, we shall feature other artists who probe minimalism and maximalism in collage.
 

The End Of The World
Matthew Rose, 2008

Immaculate Perception
Matthew Rose, 2010

Breathless
Matthew Rose, 2010

China Star
Matthew Rose, 2010

Experience
Matthew Rose, (date unknown)

Lucky Strike
Matthew Rose, 2010

Self Portrait
Matthew Rose, 2011

Star of Abraham

Monday, February 18th, 2013

“However long and varied the background of pasted materials in folk art, none of these developments was considered a major artistic movement. It was the creative artists of the twentieth century, Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, who applied materials as a new and valid means of expression. With these artists and their work the word ‘collage’ was first applied and became associated with the movement. Thus was born an art form that has become part of the contemporary milieu and, indelibly, a major historical art movement.”
— Dona Z Meilach and Elvie Ten Hoor

My wife and I recently went to see Lincoln, the Spielberg picture with Daniel Day-Lewis in the title role. It got me thinking again about the work I created for the bicentennial of the 16th president’s birth, the celebration of which was a fairly big deal here in his native state. I had made the decision to exploit the bulk of my collected Lincoln images to totally cover a metal star. To produce a collage tribute to the martyred leader with a folk-art approach seemed to me a technique appropriate to the occasion. The “artifact” is still waiting for a home. Happy Presidents Day to all.
 

Star of Abraham
collage artifact by J A Dixon
22 x 22 inches, available for purchase

There I Was

Saturday, December 8th, 2012

“He spread flour and water over the paper, then moved and shuffled and manipulated his scraps of paper around in the paste…. Finally, he removed the excess paste with a damp rag, leaving some like an overglaze in places where he wanted to veil or mute a part of the color.”
— Charlotte Weidler

It has been more than a year since I had the humbling opportunity to study dozens of Kurt Schwitters originals at the Berkeley Art Museum. I read the description by the art historian Charlotte Weidler that same day, but I only recently decided to experiment with the paste method she observed. I have always worked with a variety of adhesives, and I often combine more than one in a single collage, never hesitating to literally mix them together (white glue + acrylic varnish, for example). I was impressed with how good some of Kurt’s compositions had held together after 70 to 80 years. I dug out a small package of paper-hanger’s wheat paste acquired in the 1970s, with the new intention of using it to produce a collage on canvas that would stand on its own as an object when finished. Although I expected to coat the final surface later with gel medium, for my first piece based on using the same adhesive as the pioneering artist, I was mainly interested in how wheat paste would affect my process.

The artwork is undone, but I share one of my separate experiments below. I could not be more pleased with the results of this approach. The paste dries slowly. This allows for repositioning, easy removal of excess, and it cures to a flat, velvety finish. I am especially pleased with how conducive it is to manipulating coated paper torn from magazines, an ingredient I am quite fond of. I lightly sand the reverse side, adding a bit of white glue to the paste for good measure, and, using this hand-pasting technique, I have never found “mag scrap” more easy to work with. It may not seem like a big deal to those who attend diverse workshops and demonstrations, but, as a self-taught collage artist, it feels like a significant breakthrough to me.

Now, the only question that remains is one of durability. The seminal works of K.S. show every sign of lasting a century in decent shape, but I am no museum expert, nor have I been as fixated on archival longevity as some collage artists I know. I expect my creations to age, perhaps in unexpected ways. This reminds me of an online discussion not long ago about using elements taken from newspapers. Many collage artists may share my expectation that a newsprint ingredient will simply mature as nature sees fit, adding a certain “wabi-sabi” aspect to a work of art that relies on found material. Who knows what Picasso or Braque thought about the nature of impermanence when each created their first collage with that famous wood-grain paper found in a store? Or, for that matter, what Schwitters himself thought when— with seemingly little regard for acid-free niceties —he built the enduring concepts of Merz on the detritus of ordinary life?
 

There I Was by J A Dixon

There I Was
collage experiment by J A Dixon
8.75 x 11.5 inches, not for sale

Grateful Ode to Merz

Monday, September 17th, 2012

“When we look at (the work of) Schwitters, we must realize that it was made in a time with its own historical zeitgeist. The attitudes of the time, the philosophies, the hopes and the fears are impossible to duplicate today. We live in a different age, with three times the population, with technologies they could only dream about. So if one finds inspiration … it must manifest itself in the present. This has deep implications. The radical-ness, the surprise and sense of discovery, and the freshness that Schwitters was able to experience through his process is now a known part of history.”
—George Rodart

Four of my works have been acquired by the Ontological Museum in connection with the centennial of collage, 1912–2012. Collage artists worldwide owe a debt of gratitude to Cecil Touchon for his extraordinary labor on behalf of the medium. Working for years to establish this important institution, his efforts leading up to and during 2012 will be long considered one of the most significant developments (if not the most significant) during this milestone year. The centennial exhibition in Pagosa Springs opened last week. It features more than 400 works contributed to the museum’s permanent collection from artists living in 30+ countries and will be on view through May, 2013. This exceptional exhibition can be viewed online in its entirety.

No visual art form is more vital than collage on its one-hundredth birthday. Certainly there are antecedents in mosaic, the fabric arts, and various folk traditions, but historians have decided that either a Frenchman or a Spaniard first crossed a significant threshold a dozen years into the previous century. Some may continue to debate whether collage as a technique was “invented” by Georges Braque or Pablo Picasso, but in my considered view, the seminal genius of the medium was Kurt Schwitters, perhaps the first modern artist to fully master the process. I’m not alone in this opinion, and my conviction should be no surprise to anyone who has discovered this blog.
Grateful Ode to Merz ~ John Andrew Dixon

Grateful Ode to Merz
collage miniature on Bristol by J A Dixon
homage to Kurt Schwitters
collection of The Ontological Museum

Welcome to The Collage Miniaturist.

Saturday, August 4th, 2012

The Collage Miniaturist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today is as good a time as any for a public launch of this site. A hearty welcome to all. My sincere thanks to all the great folks at Xorph.com for their kind assistance.

My main purpose here, I have no problem admitting, is to showcase my work as a collage artist. That’s the selfish part. I would hope that it also becomes a point of reference for others who create or appreciate the medium. I make no claim as an authority. My only expertise is doing what I do, based on 40+ years of observation, creative investigation, and hands-on experience. And may the emphasis be on “hands.” I have nothing at all against digital collage —far from it— but this space will be devoted to the art and craftsmanship of 20th-century-mode, tear-and-glue, up-close-and-analogue collage — the 100-year-old approach that results in a singular, physical artifact.

If you happen to like this spot, please pay a return visit frequently, and let me know what you think. Visual art is a collaborative activity, no matter what some may say. I’ll expound more on that at another time. Begin today with a long paragraph that serves as my “statement.”

After a full century, people may continue to debate whether collage as a technique was “invented” by Georges Braque or Pablo Picasso, but in my considered view, the seminal genius of the medium was Kurt Schwitters, perhaps the first modern artist to fully master the process. I hold the opinion that relatively few aesthetic traditions emerged from early-20th-century collage experiments without the inherent sensibilities of Dada or Surrealism, and I find it endlessly fascinating to probe toward the heart of creative spontaneity while unraveling the ever-present contrasts of beauty versus non-beauty, optimism versus pessimism, and art versus anti-art. In addition to being intrigued by such mindful intuition, I remain awestruck by the capacity to create extrinsic value from everyday material that has virtually no intrinsic worth. By aesthetic sensitivity and creative ingenuity, anything that has been discarded can be infused with meaning or be brought into a contributory connection with our daily awareness. Thus, the core relationship between found material and the art of collage transmits a unifying principle. When the remnants of ordinary living are physically re-purposed to inevitably resolve their unique compositional harmony, the underlying link between visual form and symbolic communication is revealed. When the literal characteristics of the ingredient elements are successfully transcended, a culminating artifact offers the potential for a shared experience with each participating observer. I am convinced that the resulting totality of emotional impressions and layered associations derive more from a deeper artistic intent than from conscious decision making. As in most improvisational activity, there is ample opportunity for surprise, amusement, mystery, intrigue, discovery, and joy.

Seminal influences

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

“Books are to be called for and supplied on the assumption that the process of reading is not a half-sleep; but in the highest sense an exercise, a gymnastic struggle; that the reader is to do something for himself.”
—Walt Whitman

When I hear artists say they try to limit their influences, I think, “Nonsense.” Outside of some strange brand of sensory or cultural deprivation, it is simply not possible to avoid influences. That being said, why not regularly go to the masterworks and primary sources for direct, conscious influence to balance or offset the continuous bombardment of visual input from a culture steeped in nth-generation bastardizations? One cannot drive down a street, walk through a shop, or scan the media without being influenced in some way by a legion of art directors, graphic designers, and photographers—and these individuals may or may not have any direct knowledge of how they are re-cycling the ideas of innovative artists. Great writers understand where the basic narrative modes originated. Serious filmmakers know who first did this or that—a dream montage, in-camera trick, or other cinematic effect. One cannot imagine a Morricone who did not know a Beethoven who had never listened to Bach or Haydn. There is no way to conjure up an Emerson who did not know a Montaigne who had never read Lucretius or Diogenes.

The point of this is not to find fault, but to serve as a lead-in for what I intend to be a series of posts about my take on the primary innovators within the evolving medium of collage. Credit must be given to Braque, Picasso, Gris, Duchamp, and others, but, for me, the study must begin with Kurt Schwitters and Joseph Cornell. Any person dedicated to collage who neglects these masters will fail to understand the foundation of the art form. What student hasn’t thrilled to her first startling, Höch-like montage, cut and assembled from discarded magazines? What young person does not, at some point in his creative formation, place a few found objects in a small box, pause to consider the intriguing effect, and not wonder, “Is it art?” Ultimately, what I end up saying here about the key historical figures is far less important than the overwhelming need for you to put your ideas and feelings into context with each one’s remarkable body of work, according to your own perceptions and priorities. For those who encounter their creations for the first time, the inevitable thought will be, “So, he was the first guy to do that…” (except in the case of Höch, of course). Whether one rejects, reveres, ignores, imitates, or “rips off” the great seminal works of collage, one must do so with full awareness. Walt Whitman’s admonishment to writers can equally apply to visual artists. Except for those who approach the medium of collage as a hobbyist, we owe it to ourselves to partake of the “gymnastic struggle.”

Gris | Schwitters | Höch | Cornell