Archive for the 'J Gris' Category

All Things Collage: Year One

Friday, July 12th, 2013

“Any fool can carry on, but only the wise man knows how to shorten sail.”
— Joseph Conrad

Looking back on a full year as a blogger, many of my initial objectives have been met, but there are even more subjects to tackle in the coming months. Can I find the right balance between words and images, welcoming others to act as better scribes for what is happening in collage and remembering that I would rather be holding a pair of scissors than typing at a keyboard? The exceptional print quarterly out of Canada, Kolaj, has also celebrated its first birthday. 2012 was the perfect year to salute a century of collage as a modern art and also to look around, assessing the current maturity of the practice. I still have much to say about the pioneers and exemplars — Gris, Schwitters, Hausmann, Höch, Cornell, Hamilton, Johnson — for there is much to observe and absorb about their seminal talismans and bodies of work.

It is equally important to evaluate more of the leading and emerging artists now actively producing what may be known as “post-centennial collage,” perhaps the most vital period of cross-pollinated output in the medium’s history. Where to focus next? Those who magnify the traditions of Dada, Surrealism, Fluxus, or Layerism? Dedicated collage abstractionists such as Touchon, Dryden, Romoff, or Gordon? Masters of the outer reaches of a Maximalist/Minimalist spectrum such as Kroll, Reitemeyer, or De Blauwer? I have for some time lamented the lack of a visual-arts phenomenon equivalent to how musicians have traditionally improvised together, but my recent awareness of dynamic collaborations between collage artists is forcing me to change my mind. Is it time for me to take a closer look at the creative fusions instigated by Collins, Holmes, Daughters, or Wilkin?

My, my . . . have we just laid out another year or more of entries? And I have not yet “scraped the working surface” of all the collage artists who make the contemporary scene so exciting. Do I possess the necessary wisdom to tame my ambitions and “shorten sail?” My mind rebels at the idea that I cannot be an artist and a writer, too. I am no scholar, and some art historians would scoff at my correlations, but I cling to the notion that there is a place for insights about our medium that can come only from a person who faces the same challenges as my working peers when confronting a pile of scrap.

One more thought: As the digital age sweeps over the planet, is there also taking place a not-so-quiet backlash against the erosion of manual dexterity? If so, is there a more compelling counter-trend example than the current explosion of tearing, cutting, assembling, transferring, and pasting? And beyond the familiar “analog” technique, what can be said about the deep influence of visual collage on the preponderance of montage in all things sensory — music, performance, film, and media design? This site can become a place where all of this is explored, discussed, shared, and challenged. Much of that is up to you, valued reader. Meanwhile, I shall continue to see, write, and make more art. Stop by again, soon!
 

Every Instinct of My Being Rebels
collage miniature by J A Dixon
7 x 5 inches
 
Purchase this artwork!

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

Whoahh, Terie!

Sunday, July 29th, 2012

“You are lost the moment you know what the result will be.”
—Juan Gris

Years ago, as an old-school graphic designer and illustrator, I found myself rapidly adapting to a more computer-oriented profession. As a response, I began creating more greeting cards by hand to preserve my manual dexterity. I’d been making cards since youth, but this provided a new opportunity to experiment with greater intuitive spontaneity, so I created over a thousand hand-crafted “miniatures” between 1999 and 2003. Most of these exercises took the form of birthday, anniversary, and holiday cards. The near-daily practice established a foundation and direction for my current work as a collage artist who focuses on the small format. I still produce as many as 100 cards a year, most of which rely on “found material,” as with the works I make available for purchase by collectors.
 

Whoahh, Terie! by J A Dixon

Whoahh, Terie!
collage miniature by J A Dixon
collection of T L Strock