Archive for the 'M Duchamp' 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

Spot Checker

Monday, February 22nd, 2016

“I force myself to contradict myself in order to avoid conforming to my own taste.”
— Marcel Duchamp

The generous invitation to create new works for JUXTAPOSE had me thinking about constructing my first surrealist assemblage, but I had no specific concept in mind. I had some ruined wood frames, ornate in style, and started cutting them with a mitre saw to form a Swiss cross. To be honest, I didn’t want to use that symbol, so it was easy to “cancel” the idea by rotating it 45 degrees, and now I had an X to “mark the spot.” Dead end? There had to be more to it than that. I shifted my attention to completing a collage, and I must have unwittingly assigned the problem to my subconscious, because I awoke after a night’s sleep with the total solution in my head. How can one explain something like that (or Dada, for that matter)?

A few words of caution, however: Don’t actually plug it in.
 
Dixon_SpotChecker

Spot Checker
assemblage by J A Dixon
30 x 30 inches (+ “tail”)
available for purchase

On reworking a “finished” piece . . .

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

“. . . the completion of a work is only ever an abandonment, a halt that can always be regarded as fortuitous in an evolution that might have been continued.”
— Paul Valéry

Whether one thinks of the anonymous medieval monk embellishing a pre-existing manuscript, of Leonardo da Vinci working on the surface of his older painting, or of George Lucas making alterations to the original Star Wars trilogy, there is a long and sometimes controversial history of “refining” creative works already accepted as finished. I remember reading about Asian masters who thought nothing of making additions to artworks created in earlier eras. Apparently some art historians believe that halos were added to religious masterpieces much later. Duchamp did not draw those whiskers on the actual Mona Lisa, but he might have, had he been able to get away with it. What has all this to do with collage? Perhaps our entire genre came into being with the essential hunch that worthwhile art could result from revising something in contrast to its original purpose or frame of reference.

There is a wide spectrum to consider, if the subject under discussion is “altered art.” We might be talking about anchoring the concept for a collage on a singular appropriated image or transforming a mundane object into a new work of art. (L T Holmes recently shared a multi-part, personal tour of her Don’t Get Jittery On Me.) Or we might be referring to the simple idea of returning to a work already deemed complete and “writing a final chapter” to improve it. Think long enough about this topic and you may ask yourself whether any artwork is ever really done. Going back to Leonardo and Lucas for a moment, both turn up from time to time in attributions that suggest they also may have altered a version of the Valéry quotation more pithy than the poet most likely ever expressed.

“A poem is never finished, only abandoned.” — Paul Valéry
“Art is never finished, only abandoned.” — Leonardo da Vinci
“A movie is never finished, only abandoned.” — George Lucas

Forgive me if all of this undue rambling merely serves as an opportunity to highlight two “finished” collage artworks that I recently chose to revisit. Both examples also illustrate the complications of visually comparing two images created with different digital devices. After writing about a corresponding issue last week, I have since discovered S Caswell-Pearce’s related words from an April entry at paper with a past. My images for Rhapsody with Fever Chills demonstrate the same scanner/camera differential, although the scan of the new version is a better rendition of the artwork’s strong complementary effects. (This piece is currently on display with the “Seeing Red” exhibit in the McKinney Conference Center at Kentucky’s Constitution Square Historic Site.) The digital documentation of a revised Broken Qualifications, having shared the original version previously at this site, became a bit more challenging the second time around, given the addition of three-dimensional ingredients. At any rate, neither piece had ever felt fully resolved, although I had no specific plans to “reopen the case” until I made a broader reassessment of my inventory. Did I enhance them, ruin them, or just squander my time? You be the judge.
 

Rhapsody with Fever Chills
collage on paper by J A Dixon
7.5 x 10 inches, available for purchase

Broken Qualifications
collage/assemblage by J A Dixon
6 x 8 inches, available for purchase