Archive for the 'Maximalism/Minimalism' Category

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
available for purchase