Archive for June, 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

Matthew Rose, 2010

China Star
Matthew Rose, 2010

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

A Chicken Involved

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

“Not what we give, but what we share,
For the gift without the giver is bare.”
— James Russell Lowell

My thanks to fellow collage artist, Kathleen O’Brien, who kindly bestowed on me a delightful trove of vintage poultry. By all appearances, the various hens, roosters, ducks, and geese were scissored from multiple sources many years ago, often less than expertly, and compiled for some anticipated project. Why this collection was passed along or sold, with an original intent abandoned, can never be known, but my friend felt that the ingredients were more suited to my artistic activity than hers, so now I am the fortunate steward of a silent menagerie. Hope Kroll, the “paper surgeon,” could undoubtedly exploit the entire mass of images in one fell swoop, but I am more likely to apply them in a trickle. Here is the first collage that benefits from the acquisition:

A Chicken Involved
collage miniature by J A Dixon
4 x 4 inches
collection of R Gilpin

Fears and Fancies

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

“Art is never finished, only abandoned.”
— Leonardo Da Vinci

“A painting is never finished. It simply stops in interesting places.”
— Paul Gardner

One of the many fascinating aspects of this medium is that a collage can never be ruined, but only delayed. Perhaps it is the most forgiving of all art forms. Nevertheless, artists have been thinking about the issue of completion for a very long time, and a vital part of creating a collage is deciding when to quit. We see many examples that appear overworked to the point of exhaustion, or that fall short of a fitting denouement. Whether one considers it abandonment, suspension, or conclusion, the collage artist, like any creative person, must pay attention to a process that leads to the notion of “ahhh… the end.” When does the sculptor lay down the chisel? How does the choreographer know a dance is finished? When does the poet decide to stop revising?

A collage may languish in the working space for days, or even weeks, defying its appointed culmination. With experience, one can recognize the need for postponing a final resolution, and it usually involves matters of both compositional harmony and ingredient quality. While some arrangements follow a natural progression of assembly, others cannot be pushed to premature completion. If a “missing” element eludes the sought-after symbiotic result, one must wait until a solution is clear. In spite of its size, today’s featured miniature is such a case in point. Brought out several times for fresh review and incremental color refinements, it was deemed unfinished until a second egret presented itself. How does one know when a collage is done? For me, the more important consideration is learning how to see that it is not.

Fears and Fancies
collage miniature by J A Dixon
4.5 x 4.5 inches
private collection

a soldier’s birthday . . .

Friday, June 7th, 2013

“When will we ever get wise to the debt we owe the men and women of the military? When will we ever learn to pray for them every day? We do not deserve such fine people.”
— Ben Stein

My nephew is not here for his birthday today. He’s in Jordan, or Kuwait, or Afghanistan — I don’t even know exactly where, but someplace dangerous and probably very, very hot.

Celebrate the day, Josh, if you can.
Serve well. Be safe. Return home.