Archive for the 'Maximalism/Minimalism' Category

Eros manet in nobis . . .

Sunday, February 19th, 2017

“I love the abstract, delicate, profound, vague, voluptuously wordless sensation of living ecstatically.”
— Anaïs Nin
 

I have to admit that I am weary of seeing the output of collage artists who glean from pornographic content and assemble images that generally fail to rise above the source material. It is a lazy way to shock at best and a mere trafficking in human objectification at worst. That being said, I do have a sincere regard for erotic minimalism, present throughout the full century of collage as an expressive medium. Needless to say, contemporary artists have kept the tradition alive — especially in Europe — and the best examples require no additional verbal explanation.
 

Alter Ego by Nicola Kloosterman

Nicola Kloosterman | Netherlands

Franz Falckenhaus

Franz Falckenhaus | Poland

Beatrice Squitti

Beatrice Squitti | Italy

Dance With Me by Una Gildea

Una Gildea | Ireland

Mother by Erin Case

Erin Case | Michigan, USA

Miriam Tölke

Miriam Tölke | Germany

Wim Maes

Wim Maes | Belgium

Eduring Beauty by Deborah Stevenson

Deborah Stevenson | Maine, USA

Multimedia 6 by Alexander D’Haese

Alexander D’Haese | Belgium

Waldemar Strempler

Waldemar Strempler | Germany

Odeur 11 by Katrien De Blauwer

Katrien De Blauwer | Belgium

Großwerden by Kerstin Deinert

Kerstin Deinert | Germany

Jaroslav Škojec

Jaroslav Škojec | Czech Republic

Maximalism and Minimalism in Collage, part 6

Friday, August 26th, 2016

It would not be a mistake to put me in a category dedicated to “maximalism” in collage — the practice of adding more visual elements to achieve a balanced effect, in contrast to restricting a composition to a minimum of ingredients. Not that long ago I discovered the work of two maximalists when I happened upon an old blog post by fellow Kentucky collage artist Sharmon Davidson. I have never met the prolific Davidson, but it pleases me to find her concise survey of collage pioneers juxtaposed with examples of contemporary artists active in the medium. I have a high regard for collage artists who maintain a keen awareness of the history of mixed media. Her own work evokes for me the layerist tradition, and I especially like many of her miniatures. In addition to learning about Sharmon, her 2014 entry introduces me to Lance Letscher, a maximalist’s maximalist who also has been known to explore the spectrum’s opposite side with a minimalist approach. The widely exhibited Letscher is formerly a sculptor.
 

Sharmon Davidson
Her artwork emerges from the interplay of intention and intuition.

Lance Letcher
The spatial density of his designs exemplify a “maximalist” approach.

Various and Sundry — Four Years and Counting . . .

Friday, July 29th, 2016

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”
— Flannery O’Connor

It looks as though I’m stepping into my fifth year writing about collage at this blogsite, and I hope that you’ve been with me for part of that enjoyable ride.

When I look back at my wish list for Year Four, I realize, not with any surprise, that my appetite for creating collage artwork has eclipsed a sometimes equally strong desire to delve verbally into the many interesting aspects of the medium. I would like to think that I met a few of the writing goals I set for myself last summer, and, of course, my ambitions to add to that list here in this post will be dutifully curbed. At any rate, I think that the best thing to do is to break this entry into a few parts that cover various and sundry topics on my mind.

The Social Network of Collage Artists
• For at least a couple of years I have wanted to write more about the influence of social media. Nearly every day I see a collage artist defeat the potential of a sharing platform with overexposure. Some may disagree and say, “the more, the merrier.” That is not a point I care to debate, because there may be something else to highlight more important than whether or not the quality-vs-quantity consideration can fall to the wayside — the vital role of networking among artists. I am more convinced than ever that the cross-pollination and mutual support of online networks has been of significant benefit to those of us working in the medium. Crystal Neubauer has one of the more interesting blogsites by a collage artist. She touched on the topic of creative communities so well that I direct you to her short essay at ClothPaperScissors.com. Another collage artist I admire who has recently made an impression as a strong blogger is Melinda Tidwell. I like her process-oriented posts. Although more of a mixed-media artist rather than a conventional collage practitioner, the versatile Kathleen O‘Brien maintains a steady flow of what I consider “must-read” entries at her studio blogsite. Create your own list of frequent art-blog destinations and branch out to new sharing platforms (I just learned about some new artist blogs from Caterina Giglio and opened a new account at Instagram.). As the entire evolving array of networking sites weeds out the fads, imitators and clunky interfaces (finding it difficult to tolerate LinkedIn as a user), you will settle into a community of online cohorts who reinforce your daily challenges as a creative person. When you come to know that someone else is on “the same wavelength,” reach out and make contact as an authentic being behind the profile. There are rewards to be discovered!

Cheap Collage Tricks
• Collage artist Allan Bealy seems to be everywhere, but, trust me, he is no gadfly. He recently raised a topic that struck a nerve with many. There are a lot of cheap tricks appearing in the medium, and most of them are harmless, if unimaginative, but the temptation to exploit visual ingredients readily available in our culture to “objectify women” is perhaps the most repugnant. Those of us who believe we are above that sort of thing need to think more deeply about how and why we use nudes in a collage. This suggests another potential self-assignment for my coming year — a “DON’T DO THIS” post illustrating the most prevalent cheap tricks in collage. (Not that there’s anything wrong with replacing a man’s head with a vulture to carry the banner of Dada during the art movement’s centennial year.) To be honest, I have nothing against a cliche, if it “works.” Isn’t that the reason something becomes a cliche in the first place? I say go for the cheap trick if you can score in the highest percentile (anyone who thinks that’s an easy thing to is wrong). I hope to post a follow-up look at the endurance of the surreal face in collage, so stay tuned. But let’s get back to Allan’s remonstrance. The woman as sex object can be traced back to long before the rise of Madison Avenue and Larry Flynt. Don’t bite the lure, folks. Everything one needs to dabble in this unworthy stunt abounds. Nevertheless, I long have been fascinated with the exemplars of erotic minimalism and their work in contemporary collage — those who transcend the cheap tricks to achieve a fine-art impression. Add another one to my wish list for Year Five of The Collage Miniaturist.

Priorities Get the Last Word
• My wife, Dana, and I managed to get two tickets to The Seer (a new documentary portrait of Kentuckian Wendell Berry, re-titled “Look & See” for Sundance Institute) before the Lexington screening sold out last night. It is a significant film that will become more widely available into next year, and it has my highest recommendation. Does it have anything to do with collage? Nothing at all, except for everything under the sun. If you haven’t discovered the poet, novelist, essayist, and farmer-philosopher, I have accomplished one meaningful thing with this site by inviting your interest. It was fitting that I got out of the studio and spent time at our farm. It was very hot work up on the shed roof, but pleasant to be away from all the noise (traffic, sirens, and incessant political jousting). Connecting with our rural place offered an opportunity, as it always does, to put priorities back into alignment. There is a place in the documentary when Laura Dunn (the filmmaker in voice-over) explains to Berry her motivation and how she looks “to places where there is still a remnant of togetherness, or unity, or community, of connection to the land, and I study those, because I don’t come from a place — I come from divorce …”
      “We all come from divorce!” her subject interrupts. “This is an age of divorce. Things that belong together have been taken apart. And you can’t put it all back together again. What you can do, is the only thing that you can do. You take two things that ought to be together and you put them together. Two things! Not all things.” It is his metaphor for the creative life, and a tremendously healing admonition to those of us with a tendency to become overwhelmed by the enormity of the world’s chaotic disintegration. Collage artists put things together to make something new, and often we are the ones who have taken apart discarded things to do it, but there is always a much larger phenomenon at work — one of discord vs harmony, wastefulness vs thrift, cynicism vs affection. When I return to the studio from a natural place that has responded to my care, I am in a better condition to ask myself, “To which side of the big equation are you making your contribution as an artist?”
 

Crystal Neubauer
Her blogging often touches on the complexity of a creative life.

Melinda Tidwell
Perhaps you will admire her solid abstractions as much as I do.

Kathleen O’Brien
Her art always nudges one toward a deeper sense of balance and wholeness.

Robert Hugh Hunt
Stay tuned for a continuation of my review of “the surreal face.”

Bene Rohlmann
Look ahead to my first discussion of erotic minimalism in collage.

Are there any rules for collage?

Sunday, January 24th, 2016

“Ever have one of those collages where every time you add something, it just makes it more difficult to finish?”
– T R Flowers

What Terry Flowers alludes to in his recent question to collage artists is certainly an ever-present concern for a minimalist, but even a maximalist can find it difficult to discover the proper conclusion for a collage. Some say that the medium of collage has no rules. I think of it more as the rules changing in front of us until a balanced resolution takes shape, and then, perhaps arbitrarily, victory can be declared.

Unit Citation ~ J A Dixon

Unit Citation
collage miniature by J A Dixon
7.5 x 9.375 inches
 
Purchase this artwork!

Selective Fusion

Monday, July 13th, 2015

“Schwitters subjected his bits of flotsam to an organizing principle resembling the vertical scaffolding of Analytic Cubism, thus transforming the diverse components into formal elements.”
— Nancy Spector

Color and composition may be the most common denominators of all visual art. Collage, by its nature, relies on a combination of separate, often disparate elements, and those two fundamentals generally play a more prominent role in the finished effect, but that does not make collage essentially a category of abstraction. A minimalist concept built on a provocative juxtaposition or image insertion can be a predominantly figurative or representational approach, even if symbolic or surreal ideas are introduced. On the other hand, collage artworks rooted in the seminal innovations of Kurt Schwitters pay primary tribute to a tradition of abstraction now more than a century old. Of course, the medium had other early pioneers, but it is difficult to imagine the trajectory that collage might have taken without his towering influence. Personally, I have no qualms about continuing to respectfully mine the rich vein of creative ore he helped to expose. Whether it proves to be a nonrenewable resource has yet to be shown.
 

Selective Fusion ~ John Andrew Dixon, collage artist

Selective Fusion
collage on structured panel by J A Dixon
13.375 x 11.75 inches
not for sale

Maximalism and Minimalism in Collage, part 5

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

“I have devoted myself to the technique of cut-paper collage.”
— Hope Kroll

Mysterious and spooky? Could it be possible that I am examining an art collection in the Addams mansion? No. The essence is far too rarefied for that. Do I instead find myself at a museum of lost Victorian curiosities? No. The effect is much too audacious for that. Perhaps you already have guessed my desirable plight. Yes, dear reader, I am slowly steeping in the sublime virtuosity of a Hope Kroll collage.

Known to many as the “paper surgeon,” the artwork of Hope Kroll would be astonishing enough for her extraordinarily meticulous “scissorship,” but she has clearly decided to put her demanding technique into service for eloquent visual statements that intrigue both the mind and eye. As Cecil Touchon points out, this would be outstanding enough, but she does not stop there. In most of her collage assemblies, she also introduces a signature three-dimensionality to heighten the surreal impression. A maximalist at heart, the prolific artist would certainly agree with Milton Glaser that “Less in not necessarily more.” Somehow she manages, time after time, to achieve unified outcomes from highly complex compositions, while at the same time evoking a powerful atmosphere that first entices, then engrosses, and finally beguiles the observer. I occasionally find her work a bit unsettling, but never unsavory, and always aesthetically exquisite. Like a fine bouillabaisse, her creations delight multiple senses.

Sample a few of her delicious recipes below and “hope,” as I do, that she continues to make many more.
 

Reconfiguration
Hope Kroll, 2003

Grooming
Hope Kroll, 2006

The Way Children Learn
Hope Kroll, 2010

Science And Faith
Hope Kroll, 2008

Thought Process
Hope Kroll, 2009

Ghost in the Machine
Hope Kroll, 2012

Maximalism and Minimalism in Collage, part 4

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

“I’m not an art reviewer, nor am I a psychiatrist, but I’ve often thought that Katrien De Blauwer’s special talent is her ability to speak to and for the collective unconscious of human emotions.”
— Laura Tringali Holmes

I regularly walk to a nearby college natatorium to swim laps. To my periodic astonishment, I will get an idea for a collage while staring at the bottom of a pool. My mind apparently stays cluttered with images of unused ingredients, and I suppose they demand to be composed, even when I am absent from my studio. As I travel to and from the destination, no scrap of litter escapes my attention (an occupational practice for many collage artists). Recently, when I discovered a wadded-up candy or bubble-gum wrapper that looked to me like a tiny, mashed bird (or was it a disfigured fleur-de-lis?), I knew I had to find a place for it, but I preferred that it not get lost in a “maximalist” design. So I encouraged myself to produce a collage with a minimal of elements. This is not my typical style, but I visually partake daily of numerous examples by peers who excel at this technique, if one can call it that. Thankfully, a bit of their approach may have rubbed off. Laura Tringali Holmes has taken it another step by accepting the challenge of creating a collage under the influence of a particular fellow artist. Laura often leans in the direction of maximalism, as do I, and her skillful homage to Katrien De Blauwer, a master of minimalism, is worth a visit to her site. As you may know, I am keen on the cross-fertilization of solid influences. I am not ashamed to say that both of these collage artists are among my favorite sources of rich visual pollen. Watch for a profile of each in future entries here.
 

Fear of Failure
collage miniature by J A Dixon
4.75 x 6.375 inches
 
Purchase this artwork!

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!

Maximalism and Minimalism in Collage, part 3

Saturday, July 6th, 2013

“My scraps rarely get thrown away and are often the main inspiration for getting started on a piece.”
— Fred Free

Slowly open your eyes to find yourself in an oddly familiar space that is part tool & die shop, Zen garden, and hi-fi showroom. Mom is there in her polka-dot apron, and somewhere in the next room, The Adventures of Jonny Quest has gone to commercial break. It may well be a surreal warp in quantum time, but, more than likely, it is the distinctive world of a Fred Free collage.

I cannot say if Fred Free uses his given name or a pseudonym, but it has never really mattered to me. He is one of the most actively intriguing artists working in the medium today. His superb compositions often look more minimalist than they actually are, offering delightful complexities that blend a clearly restrained interplay of vintage ingredients and street rubbish with moods that fluctuate between reverence for lost motifs, wry humor, and a mild disenchantment with 21st-century culture. While cohering to a recognizably defined vision, FF skillfully explores the spectrum of minimalism to maximalism in collage. In spite of a “yesteryear” oeuvre, he makes adept use of online platforms and social networks, while also effectively promoting visual cross-pollination at Tumblr by “endorsing” other artists with his Variety Showcase.
 

fantasy f
Fred Free, 2005

to pay
Fred Free, 2007

conceal
Fred Free, 2008

digging for the foundations on
Fred Free, 2011

activities
Fred Free, (date unknown)

7413
Fred Free, 2013

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

Fallen Body

Monday, June 24th, 2013

“Less is not necessarily more.”
— Milton Glaser

A profusion of collage artwork has recently come to my attention that makes use of only two or three elements. When this type of minimalist approach is successful, the result can be quite arresting to the eye and mind. More often than not, it looks uninteresting or unfinished to me. It may come as no surprise that I am more of a maximalist, preferring to build a layering of ingredients that transcends the intrinsic quality of the found material. I suppose that I have been more influenced by Schwitters than Cornell. Although there is nothing inherently unappealing to me about “sparsity,” admiring those who employ the methodology with skill, I have found myself pulled toward “density’ for the past few years. Some artists may think that if one hasn’t achieved a solution with fewer than a dozen parts, the essence of the piece has escaped. I appreciate that viewpoint, and respect those who consistently meet the challenge of limitation. For me, the working surface calls out for more, until a balance of “visual polyphony” takes form, and the dynamic aspects of color, shape, composition, and symbolic communication have resolved themselves as a distinctive, unified whole.
 

Fallen Body
collage artifact by J A Dixon
7.5 x 10.5 inches
(currently on consignment)