Archive for the 'Merz' Category

a medium in need of an internal critique

Sunday, March 5th, 2017

“If you’re coasting, you’re going downhill.”
— L W Pierson

Awhile ago, someone asked a question about the trajectory of collage: “What’s Next?” To ponder that, I remind myself that one thoughtful critique is worth more than a ton of casual “likes.” Those of us who love this practice need to push beyond the comfort of mutual praise and communicate honestly about the medium of collage (not about our political attitudes). Don’t expect the lords of social media to provide a thumbs-down button. That’s not the solution (even if they do). There needs to be the virtual equivalent of the intense coffee houses and night spots of a century ago, where artists were not shy about challenging the easy answers and safe solutions.

Höch, Hausmann, Schwitters, and their fellow collage “inventors” included found material contemporary with their times. There are many current practitioners who restrict themselves to “vintage” resources, and some of them avoid using anything younger than 50 years old. Whatever they choose to do is fine, but, in my opinion, 21st-century collage artists are challenged to explore the cast-off stuff of today for potential ingredients in a fresh “school of post-centennial collage” that “documents” our own culture, rather than confine themselves to curating the artifacts of our ancestors. Remember, when KS pasted down a tram ticket in place of a brushstroke, nearly a hundred years ago, he was clearly using something that he just acquired on the street. Let’s think about that when as ask ourselves, “What’s Next?”
 
Tinged By Whispered Accounts ~ a collage miniature by John Andrew Dixon, Danville, Kentucky

Tinged By Whispered Accounts
collage experiment in monochrome by J A Dixon
7.75 x 10.25 inches
 
Purchase this artwork.

Dada Centennial Exhibition to open in Santa Fe

Friday, October 21st, 2016

As part of the celebratory observation of the Dada Centennial organized by Cecil Touchon, I picked three of my experiments from earlier in the year (March 6thMarch 7thMarch 21st) to refine and submit to the Int’l Museum of Collage, Assemblage & Construction. Sure wish I was a bit closer to New Mexico.
 

Dada 100 (SCORE 20) ~ J A Dixon

Dada 100 (SCORE 20)
collage miniature by J A Dixon
4 x 5 inches
permanent collection of the Ontological Museum

Dada 100 (URGER HEESE BURG) ~ J A Dixon

Dada 100 (URGER HEESE BURG)
collage miniature by J A Dixon
4 x 5 inches
permanent collection of the Ontological Museum

dixon_dadajuliejudy

Dada 100 (Julie and Judy)
collage miniature by J A Dixon
4 x 5 inches
permanent collection of the Ontological Museum

Merz de la Mer

Sunday, May 29th, 2016

This piece has been hanging in the studio long enough to qualify for inclusion at this site. There is always something to be learned from looking at a previous work, especially when convinced that one would not or could not execute it precisely in the same way.
 
Merz de la Mer ~ a collage with mixed media by John Andrew Dixon

Merz de la Mer
collage with mixed media by J A Dixon
19 x 15 inches
 
Purchase this framed artwork.

Spencer Gulf

Monday, April 25th, 2016

“The Japanese word yugen means ‘aesthetically mysterious.’ We don’t have a word like this to describe art in the Western art world. Yugen as a concept worries some because it describes an intangible. It says ‘awe’ and ‘mystery’ can also be qualitative aesthetics, and the beauty of this is that though yugen is a Japanese word what it describes is universal in reach. Though a refined concept, it is an everyman’s word because it describes perfectly a good deal of the art the entire world makes to achieve personal and cultural satisfaction. In a time when we are 1% and 99% sensitive, let us indeed remember that the art mainstream, the academic discourse, the intellectual game of art about art, the ivory tower is only 1% of why the world makes art.”
— Randall Morris
 

For the second consecutive year, I had the opportunity to create a collage as prize art for the preeminent single-shot rifle match held in Kentucky. Visitors to this blogsite know my ongoing fascination with collage as an ideal medium for total spontaneity. Of course, it also lends itself perfectly to a planned, thematic solution for general appeal.

I discovered enough ingredients in my stash of papers to cover the Australian topic, but also to entertain a desired level of synchronicity to encompass a few distinctive characteristics of the event. In addition to my personal enjoyment, I am always pleased to see the positive response to collage as art. It has to be more than the element of the unexpected, although, admittedly, collage is never what people anticipate in these situations. I think it may be the particular combination of accessibility, interactivity, and “mystery” so inherent in the medium. I suppose there is more to said about that, but we shall save it for another day.
 

Spencer Gulf ~ J A Dixon

Spencer Gulf
collage miniature by J A Dixon
7 x 9.5 inches
prize art for The Great .310 Australian Cadet Martini Match of 2016
awarded to D Simpson

A Kentucky Collaboration

Monday, August 24th, 2015

“I’ve collaborated with many artists over the years but never on a project of this size. The two pieces were to be 24″ x 24″ on structured panels. What made this collaboration successful was the interplay between the two artists. We both sent numerous pictures of our starts in progress and were able to play off the ideas and techniques the other was using, in this we created a true pair of collages instead of two separate pieces.”
— Robert Hugh Hunt
 

Collaboration between collage artists is a widespread, dynamic development within a medium that has shown extraordinary vitality after its centennial milestone in 2012. This very well may be part of a broader phenomenon, due in no small way to the explosion of social media and a greater networking among artists of all kinds. I was not surprised when, earlier this year, here in my home state, the Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea announced a major exhibition called It Takes Two: Collaborations by Kentucky Artisans.

In response to this opportunity, I decided to contact Robert Hugh Hunt, an artist from Richmond, Kentucky whose work I had come to respect after we made a connection through Facebook. Both of us were aware of our geographic proximity, but had not previously met in person, nor had we collaborated remotely on a casual project. Appreciating each other’s prior work is no guarantee that two artists will enjoy the collaborative process or value the creative end result. Only by risking a joint venture will both artists find out if they actually are “on the same wavelength.” I am pleased to report that the results of my teamwork with Robert exceeded our optimistic expectations, and that one of the two pieces we created was selected for the “Takes Two” show.

As artists, Robert and I both work regularly with combined mediums, but we chose collage as the foundation of our approach because we recognize how ideally suited it is for collaboration. There was no inclination to think small. We each fabricated larger dimensional panels and created a “start” for the other — to establish the background and organize the two-dimensional space with found material and other recycled/repurposed elements. collage collaboration ~ the start by Robert Hugh Hunt for Kentucky Sovereign ~ collage on structured panelAfter meeting for the first time (with spouses, over lunch at a delightful new Cuban eatery halfway between our studios), we exchanged the unfinished works to complete the compositions with additional ingredients and renderings. Robert’s recognized practice of layering his cut-and-paste collage artworks with mixed-media additions had already caught my attention, and his expressed aim to do the same within our collaboration inspired me to include a hand-rendered element as a focal point in my “finish,” which we titled Kentucky Sovereign. Robert’s finish, Kentucky Madonna, features multiple mixed-media treatments on top of my background shapes. The effect helps to integrate our respective techniques and to bond the artworks as a “true pair,” to use Robert’s phrase.

For my start, I began with a section of an Iraqi newspaper brought home by a member of the Kentucky National Guard. Robert made use of clippings from a 1940s-era newspaper that he got from fellow collage artist Ted Tollefson. collage collaboration ~ the start by John Andrew Dixon for Kentucky Madonna ~ collage on structured panelOur range of “merz-strokes” was unfettered, but we shared a desire to “Kentuckify” our choices, although neither of us knew exactly what we meant by that. Other ingredients include magazine scraps, printed papers, antique maps, used packaging, illustrations from discarded books, mesh bag material, tissue, fabric, plastic clasps, wood, gummed labels, metal, emptied tea-bags, produce stickers, foil, wallpaper, digital printouts, a paper doily, and more (with a modest assemblage aspect thrown in for good measure). As with any collaboration, the challenge is to discover a way to enhance the start in a complimentary manner and also to bring one’s personal approach to the finish. Our decision to avoid isolation was a good one. Images exchanged during development kept the creative energy in flux and maintained a visual cord (a common chord?) between the surfaces as they evolved separately. It was a positive experience for both of us and boosted our enthusiasm to continue as active collaborators.

Thanks, Robbo!
 

finish by John Andrew Dixon for Kentucky Sovereign ~ a collaboration with R H Hunt ~ collage on structured panel

Kentucky Sovereign
a collaboration by R H Hunt and J A Dixon
collage on structured panel, 24 x 24 inches
(start by Hunt, finish by Dixon)
selected for It Takes Two: Collaborations by Kentucky Artisans
available for purchase

finish by Robert Hugh Hunt for Kentucky Modonna ~ a collaboration with John Andrew Dixon ~ collage on structured panel

Kentucky Madonna
a collaboration by J A Dixon and R H Hunt
collage on structured panel, 24 x 24 inches
(start by Dixon, finish by Hunt)
available for purchase

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

Connections that transcend limitations . . .

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

“I don’t know the English language. This message is written with an electronic program of translation. I hope that it is comprehensible.”
— Lucio Valerio Pini, Rome, Italy

In a moment of exuberance, I made the following comment on a social network: “Collage has become a universal human language that transcends other cultural and semantic limitations.”

Some who saw it may not have fully agreed. At least one person shared the opinion that my statement “sounds like hyperbole.” Perhaps. Nevertheless, if one looks with care at what I wrote, there is nothing inaccurate or misleading about it (Would this not be true about almost any art form, whether it be sculpture, music, or dance?), and I have no better way to explain my ongoing weekly “conversation” with hundreds of collage artists worldwide whose other languages I cannot read.

As if to illustrate my proposition, I received a message and some bold images from an Italian artist making a connection beyond our mutual language barrier. I do not know anything about his age, experience, or circumstances, but my sudden awareness of his dynamic work exemplifies an exciting international cross-pollination taking place among current practitioners of collage.

Continue to refine your artistic voice, Lucio, and keep reaching out to those of us who value, in the words of Kurt Schwitters, “creating relationships, preferably between all things in the world.”
 

Con il permesso di Tadini
collage by Lucio Valerio Pini

Con il permesso di Tamara
collage by Lucio Valerio Pini

Col Van Heusen
collage by Lucio Valerio Pini

Come Pop Art
collage by Lucio Valerio Pini

Con il permesso di Klimt
collage by Lucio Valerio Pini

CITT
collage by Lucio Valerio Pini

This artist is not coasting . . .

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

“To alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.”
— Homer Simpson

Yesterday was my birthday, and I was rocked by the generosity of a fellow practitioner, Ted Tollefson. A veteran collaborator, he is also one of the more versatile individuals currently laboring in the medium. Like many collage artists, Tollefson explores a number of different approaches, but has recently established his mastery of the collage-on-beer-coaster format.

I was not fully aware until today that he has been producing a coaster-based collage for each of his facebook friends. That means hundreds of miniatures in a relatively short time frame, and, from what I can tell, he calibrates the visual method for each intended recipient. Given my expressed fondness for personal miniatures, TT is a kindred spirit indeed. He has crafted a real gem for my gift coaster. Everything about it — scale, colors, composition, textures, choice of ingredients — are simply outstanding. Thank you, sir, for your kindness. Keep up the superb effort. You are a true heir to Kurt Schwitters. Merz lives!

Take a look at just a few examples of his creative output and you might share my high regard for this mushrooming body of intriguing work.
 

April 29
collage on beer coaster
by T Tollefson for J A Dixon


 

 

 

 

Personal miniatures on beer coasters by Ted Tollefson.
(Hover over image for more information; click to view larger.)

Theme and Variation in Collage, part 2

Saturday, August 10th, 2013

“But now I had these targets, and something grand in me wanted to make the two divergent threads — one of my artwork, one of my father — intertwine.”
— Laura Tringali Holmes

An increasingly engaging form of collaboration in collage is the coming together of a diverse group to explore the shared concept. In my last post we looked at an example in which the participants artistically exploited an image or thematic suggestion. Today we feature a remarkable project launched by L T Holmes that makes use of nearly identical vintage paper targets she has magnanimously provided to those taking part. Anyone reading this is urged to investigate her recent blog entry that offers an affecting backstory for the “Target Practice” initiative.

As this outstanding series takes shape, I cannot help but think of the Merz painting, “Hitler Gang,” and how KS (as usual) was just a bit ahead of us. If he thought a target was a cool collage ingredient nearly 70 years ago, I am, for one, quite content to continue digging the ground he broke. At least we are not fearing for our personal safety, thank heaven.
 

Friday, 1963
collage miniature by J A Dixon
vintage target from L T Holmes
6 x 7 inches
 
Purchase this artwork!

Odes to influence, invention, inspiration . . .

Sunday, April 7th, 2013

“I’ve never met a tradition that is not the result of successful invention. As soon as you invent something that everybody wants, unless you evolve that tradition, it starts to get smaller. I think of the Silk Road, in many ways, as the Internet of antiquity. Today it’s much faster but we had essentially the same results. When people met at the borders, you traded; you figured out who you are; do I trust you? Can we do business together? Can we be friends?”
— Yo-Yo Ma

A week after finishing my 31-miniatures-in-31-days exercise, which culminated in a “Silk Road” collage series, I am able to look at the month’s output with a bit of perspective. A period of sustained experimentation collided with a catalytic event (attending a performance of the Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma), and suddenly I was off on a ride of intense thematic exploration. I am now able to link the end result to a piece I created seven years ago as a tribute to Kurt Schwitters. I felt strongly at the time that by transcending the individual characteristics of ingredient elements, the totality of a compositional effect could take on a reverential tone. I have nothing against irreverence, satire, or sarcasm in art, but I am increasingly comfortable with the idea that when I step beyond an inspirational experience, my natural tendency is to seek beauty, harmony, and perhaps even “the sacred” in a work of collage.
 

Sacred Ode To Merz
J A Dixon, 2006
16 x 20 inches (framed)
private collection

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