Archive for the 'M Ernst' Category

On Nostalgia in Collage

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

“ . . . what I am hoping to do is discover if it is possible to separate nostalgia and collage art, or determine whether the two are inextricably entwined.”
— Joel Lambeth

In a blog entry last month, collage artist Joel Lambeth asked the challenging question, “Is collage inherently nostalgic?” It is one of the more provocative pieces about our medium that I have read this year, although a bit wordy in places. Admittedly, most working collage artists like us who maintain blogs that purport to be more than an online portfolio are not the finest writers alive, and I salute him for not choosing to approach the topic in a superficial way. Nevertheless, it is always risky to generalize about anything, but Lambeth cuts deeply into the subject to probe the history and heart of collage as an art form, and he manages to avoid a semantic discourse on the definition of the word “nostalgia.” His thoughtful viewpoints have sparked a desire on my part to weigh in (with what also may prove to be an entry more verbose than usual).

The groundbreaker Max Ernst worked with vintage engravings, perhaps to emphasize his anti-traditionalist intentions.a Joseph Cornell aviary assemblage He influenced Joseph Cornell, who captured feelings of personal nostalgia with innovative effects that were as cutting-edge as they were fixated on musings about the past. When analyzing collage artwork with respect to the idea of nostalgia, we must take into consideration the artist’s motivation in addition to the overall character of the medium. When I look at current examples from the daily waves of creative output, it is clear that nostalgia in collage plays out along a spectrum or continuum like nearly every other feature of the process, whether it be minimalism/maximalism, realism/surrealism, or representation/abstraction.

It is surprising to me how many contemporary collage artists work exclusively with old ingredients, but that does not mean necessarily that their agenda is merely to traffic in sentimentality. Sara Caswell-Pearce and Nancy Gene Armstrong are among those who appear to harness nostalgia as a conscious objective in their work while achieving a broad balance of artistic creativity. Many collage artists, such as Carolina Chocron, Nikki Soppelsa, Ross Carron, Fred Litch, Laura Collins, and Frank Voigt are more apt to generate nostalgic tones as a byproduct of incorporating vintage ingredients into strong compositions. Only these individuals could clarify to what degree they actively try to convey impressions of an era gone by. The versatile Zach Collins and Randel Plowman, although they frequently work with obviously old paper, both seem to be engaged in ongoing visual investigations more primary than any sense of nostalgia embedded in their finished works.

Lambeth compares the nostalgic impulse to the process of collage itself and concludes by suggesting “that at a very base level collage and nostalgia have more in common than they do separating them.” He acknowledges the contemporary effort to transcend the inherent bias that the medium may have toward nostalgia. Perhaps he, Marc Deb, Launa Romoff, Andrew Lundwall, Teri Dryden, and numerous other artists are making the push beyond any fundamental nostalgic essence. If so, collage, after more than a hundred years, is cycling back to its roots, when Kurt Schwitters, who always considered himself a painter, became convinced that the pasted detritus of his environment was equally as legitimate as a brushstroke of oily pigment.
 

Midnight Gambol: Or Why The Bees Slept In Every Morning
mixed-media collage by Sara Caswell-Pearce

A Boy and a Swan
collage by Nancy Gene Armstrong

descosiendo el cuadrilátero
collage by Carolina Chocron

Napoleon shows his hand
collage by Nikki Soppelsa

untitled
collage by Fred Litch

Nubecula Cum Ovi
collage by Ross Carron

Jump
collage by Laura Collins

untitled
collage by Fred Voigt

141zc14
collage on wood panel by Zach Collins

August Night
collage by Randel Plowman

Ripping It Up
collage by Joel Lambeth

Imperfect Parallels
collage by Marc Deb

the parrot (detail)
mixed-media collage by Launa D Romoff

Substance
mixed-media collage by Andrew Lundwall

9 Lives
mixed-media collage by Teri Dryden

Journal Collage  |  Fifth Page

Monday, February 25th, 2013

“Time consecrates and what is gray with age becomes religion.”
— Friedrich Schiller

The collage artworks of Kurt Schwitters possess a “vintage” appearance to our eye, but it is essential to keep in mind that his “Merz” ingredients were predominantly gleaned from a concurrent environment. It was Joseph Cornell, via the influence of Max Ernst and others, who consciously selected antique images to reinforce the romance and melancholy of feelings past. Apparently, a significant number of active collage artists limit their resources to vintage found material. Don’t get me wrong; I love this work. The immediate “retro effect” can be quite compelling. It would take a stronger soul than mine to dismiss the inherent dignity that comes with the marvelous scrap from an outdated encyclopaedia or the now-funky gravitas of post-war, mass-market magazines. However, from my perspective, a vital element of contemporary collage is the incorporation of present-day material and the recycling of twenty-first century detritus. I find it even more interesting to see vintage ingredients effectively juxtaposed with the ephemera of our own time. Nevertheless, every serious artist has a set of aesthetic considerations, genre goals, and process parameters that mold decisions. Due respect should be extended to the overall objectives that each collage artist brings to this exceptionally diverse media.
 

Untitled (Just Another Prophesy)
journal collage by J A Dixon
8.5 x 11 inches, not for sale

Shadows of Joseph

Monday, February 11th, 2013

“From the beginning he had responded to the avant-garde developments of his time with admirable swiftness and sureness. It is hard to think of another American artist who was receptive to so many different art movements or who managed to win the admiration of everyone from the Surrealists in the 1940s to the Abstract Expressionists in the 1950s to the Pop Artists in the 1960s. Artists who agreed on little else agreed on Cornell.”
—Deborah Solomon

“The central themes of Pop Art were sub-culture, folk cultures, media imagery, new technologies, design, the consumer goods and engineering industries, the inter-relationships between these phenomena and their effect on human beings.”
—Tilman Osterwold

Osterwold’s analysis suggests that traditions, fashions, and even avant-gardist achievements could no longer be the norm after Pop Art, which swept away the boundaries of artistic development with its focus on a “consciously perceived and reflected present-day existence.” Having just finished Deborah Solomon’s biography of Joseph Cornell (Utopia Park: The Life and Work of Joseph Cornell), I am struck by how Cornell anticipated Pop Art with his focus on the appropriated elements of mass culture and his various obsessions with celebrities, while at the same time demonstrating an abiding indifference to the cult of personal fame so typically associated with the movement. Walter Hopps stated that Cornell was “Schwitters’ greatest successor.” Cornell was certainly aware of Schwitters, for he was highly cognizant of nearly everything about the onrushing stream of modern art (in contrast to the misconception that he was some sort of urban hermit), but the precise lineage of artistic influence may never be fully known. Perhaps it was Cornell’s connection with Max Ernst that is a key factor. In my opinion, Ernst was not a giant of 20th-century collage, but did have a vital influence on the genesis of Cornell’s art. It is well recognized that Joseph began and ended his unique body of work with the medium of collage. One of the things that astonishes me is how he could be so attuned to the advancing frontier of present-day art (often staying a step or two ahead of it) and, at the same time, carry such a personal dysfunction that derived from the driving intensity of his inner world. Was that the nature of his genius? At any rate, his strange but amazing ability to synthesize powerful emotional and cultural content by inventing (virtually from scratch) a distilled form of assemblage continues to set the standard for almost everything in the mix of media that has followed in its wake. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t observe an artwork that can be traced directly to his seminal vision. But rarely do I see another artist infuse their juxtapositions with a rich symbolism to compare favorably with his complex associations. Most of the art I see with an obvious Cornellian tone owes more to surrealist automatism or atmospheric illustration than to the intricate blend of embedded meaning and refined intuition that characterized his enduring originality.
 

Knave Child
Kurt Schwitters, 1921
Collage on paper
Sprengel Museum, Hannover.

plate from La Femme 100 Têtes
Max Ernst, 1929
Collage novel
Published Éditions du Carrefour, Paris

Untitled (Schooner)
Joseph Cornell, 1931
Collage on paperboard

Untitled (Girl and Two Columns)
Joseph Cornell, c. 1950
Glass, wood, tempera and printed paper collage

Circe III — Surface and Volume in Nature
Joseph Cornell, c. 1961-66
Collage on masonite