Archive for the 'Pop Art' Category

Collage and the Meaning of Existence

Sunday, January 31st, 2016

Sorry about that title. I am having a bit of fun with the search engines.

On a serious note, today’s entry is about how collage can be put to the service of more than irony, shock, whimsy, irreverence, or cynicism. Let me say first, if you please, that all those things can be valid, even pleasurable, effects. They are rooted deeply in the history of the medium. One could make the case that a collage artwork is never more than a step or two removed from the essence of dada, surrealism, or popism. On the other hand, for me, there are times when that creative genealogy is best put aside, in favor of a different tone.

Developing works with special meaning to those for which they were intended has always been some of the most fulfilling time I have spent as an artist. Collage has the potential to capture profound significance for a recipient, especially when it is personalized with meaningful artifacts and memorabilia. Also, there is an opportunity for the artist to thoughtfully select and integrate additional ingredient elements for greater depth and layered associations.

The project featured below began with a discussion about how all of us accumulate “stuff” that will never rise to the level of a family heirloom, but cannot be comfortably discarded because it has true meaning in the context of one’s journey in life. The patron took to heart my offer to embed many of these things in an artistic expression that would likely become a treasure for descendants instead of a burden of disposition. With the capacity to transcend the “scrapbook,” fine art collage is ideally suited for such an endeavor.

It was the client’s idea to approach the commission as a triptych, or three separate panels, that would convey the themes of body, mind, and spirit. I wanted the components to work as a total piece, but also for each to have a stand-alone quality. Whether they stay together or part company will be left to future circumstances and decisions. The resulting “legacy collage” is a distinctive creation that preserves images representing the life and guiding principles of a unique individual. It has been my honor to provide that creative service to her.
 

Body (for MJCB) ~ J A Dixon Mind (for MJCB) ~ J A Dixon Spirit (for MJCB) ~ J A Dixon

Body  ~  Mind  ~  Spirit
John Andrew Dixon
three legacy collage artworks on structured panels
16 x 24 inches each
private collection

A Book About Death ~ Wales

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

“The project has become The Book About Living.
—Sonja Benskin Mesher

Ray Johnson, the original “most famous unknown artist in the world,” produced his A Book About Death during the years 1963 to 1965. The pages were randomly mailed and offered for sale. Complete copies were compiled by a rare few. Johnson was a significant bridge between the groundbreaking work of Schwitters, the sensibilities of Cornell, and the emergence of what would become the most widely recognizable features of Pop Art. He was highly influential in the Mail Art, Installation Art, and Performance Art movements, as well as late 20th-century neo-Dadaist trends.

Since 2008, Paris-based Matthew Rose has actively aroused a worldwide interest and vitality that perpetuates the legacy of A Book About Death. A new call to artists from the Royal Cambrian Academy in Wales and the full history of ABAD can be studied at this site. An exhibition at MoMA Machynlleth planned for later this year will include a collage from me (featured below, produced on a 50-year-old postcard). An online archive will share details of the exhibition and record artworks as they come in. Participate! You have until September 30th to mail your contribution.
 

ABAD 2014
collage on 1964 postcard by J A Dixon
6 x 4 inches, not for sale

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

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

Get the jumper cables

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

I’m keen on art history to quench a dry spell. Here’s my suggestion to a collage artist in a slump.

• Browse modern art movements that have influenced collage: cubism, dada, constructivism, expressionism, surrealism, pop art.

• Relax and study the seminal masters of the medium: Cornell, Paolozzi, Höch, Hausmann, Schwitters.

• Then go to your “morgue” of images, textures, ephemera, and found material: group various ingredients into piles, responding quickly, intuitively, and without conscious thought for composition or symbolic associations.

• Before you know it, you’ll have more ideas and embryonic projects than you can immediately deal with. React first to the ones that won’t be denied. With a bit of luck, a new series will emerge.
 

Tatlin at Home by Raoul Haussmann

Tatlin at Home
by Raoul Hausmann
1920

A Book About Death

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

“Ray didn’t talk about it, he just did it. That’s why you don’t find art magazines lying around quoting the art philosophy of Ray Johnson.”
—Toby Spiselman

Ray Johnson, the original “most famous unknown artist in the world,” produced his A Book About Death during the years 1963 to 1965. The pages were randomly mailed and offered for sale. Complete copies were compiled by a rare few. Johnson was a significant bridge between the groundbreaking work of Schwitters, the sensibilities of Cornell, and the emergence of what would become the most widely recognizable features of Pop Art. He was highly influential in the Mail Art, Installation Art, and Performance Art movements, as well as late 20th-century neo-Dadaist trends. Paris-based Matthew Rose has actively aroused a worldwide interest and vitality that perpetuates the legacy of A Book About Death, including a 2010 incarnation (in which I made a small contribution). The full history can be studied at this site.
 
ABAD 2010 by J A Dixon

ABAD 2010
collage miniature by J A Dixon
6 x 4 inches, not for sale

Marty’s Borggrrrl

Saturday, August 18th, 2012

“Art is the greatest risk of all because when you’re making something, you’re constantly asking yourself what the hell you’re doing.”
—James Rosenquist

The century-long history of collage casts a deep shadow into the creative present and beyond. It is startling to realize that even Pop Art has been around over half that time. There aren’t many things that haven’t already been tried, or many effects that stake their ground removed from Dada, Surrealism, Constructivism, or one of the other movements influenced thereby. A collage artist must respect and acknowledge the past with a clear mind, internalize it as a part of the intuitive process, and follow a personal investigation anchored on risk. It’s not easy to successfully defy expectations, whether one’s own or the anticipated response, but everything else is practicing etudes or mere fabrication for the marketplace.
 

Marty’s Borggrrrl

Marty’s Borggrrrl
collage miniature by J A Dixon
collection of J M Strock, Jr