“holding it together”

is a show i’ve curated about assemblage and collage.  in art vernacular, an assemblage (pronounced a-ˌsäm-ˈbläj) or collage is made by putting together preexisting things that weren’t intended to go together and usually weren’t intended to be art-making materials.

specifically, an assemblage is a three-dimensional work, like this piece by rina banerjee which she made from textiles, beads, feathers, thread, wire, bells and light bulbs…



while a collage is flat and usually made of paper or photographs, like this one using images from art history — velasquez, david, picasso — by john o’reilly.


john o’reilly, holding a mask, 2014  paper collage, 16×20 inches.


in 1973, jay defeo assembled a sculpture from objects in her studio — a candlestick telephone, a light bulb and her camera’s tripod.    she photographed it, then cut the photograph and floated it — out of its studio context — on a blank sheet of paper.  a collage of an assemblage!


jay defeo, untitled, c. 1973, photo collage on paper, 12×9 inches.


a collage or assemblage becomes something other than the individual parts from which it’s made… it’s the juxtaposition of disparate elements or their re-contextualization that creates meaning.


jean conner, crackers, 1967, collaged paper, 10×8 inches.



edward ruscha,  athens 1961, pencil and collage on paper, 10 3/8 x 8 3/8 inches.



jess (collins), untitled (with symphony conductor), c.1952-53, collage, 18×24 inches.



nick cave, soundsuit, 2012, mixed media including sock monkeys, sweaters, and pipe cleaners  112x42x33 inches



the genre tends toward the surreal — exploring emotional states, the subconscious, the body, identity or sexuality.


patricia piccinini, nectar, 2012, silicone, fiberglass, human hair, refrigerator, 32x19x20 inches



jean conner, formal garden, 1966, paper collage 13×9 inches.




jay defeo, untitled (1959-60), photo collage with typed label, tape and offset-printed cardboard, 7×6 inches.

that’s jay defeo’s own face (above) that the subject is thinking / dreaming about. and while the meaning of this porter piece (below) is pretty clear — one is different things to different people —  it adds something to know that when porter draws a rabbit, she’s inserting it as a stand-in for herself.



liliana porter, triple disguise, 2008.



john o’reilly, self-portrait, 1993 photo collage in vintage frame, 4×3 inches.

tim hawkinson, too, used himself to make the work in the show… this collage is composed of hundreds of photographs of different parts of his body, meticulously cut to fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.  the surface intentionally undulates, like an over-stuffed bag or the skin on our bodies.


tim hawkinson bag, 2014, inkjet prints and urethane on panel, 55×42 inches.



the elements that collages are composed from, often tend to be loaded with meaning.


william t. wiley, momma’s cross with jesus, 1995 mixed media, 24x14x5 inches.



joe brainard, madonna of the peas, 1975, mixed media on paper, 13×10 inches.


vik muniz, pictures of magazine 2: green monkey, after george stubbs, 2011 digital c-print  50×43 inches.



many of the works in the show, like the muniz or this massive andrew schoultz, are intricate and complex.


andrew schoultz vessels and water, 2014   paper collage,  11 x 14 feet.


while other works are as successfully created by combining only 2 or 3 elements.   check out this surreal beauty by jay defeo:


or this work on canvas by liliana porter:


just a model ship and a pour of paint?


but it’s the third element, the off-kilter hanging of the canvas, that makes the piece brilliant…   undermining the viewer’s sense of stability.




the purpose of curating is to combine artworks in such a way as to tell a story or explore ideas.   it’s accomplished by showing the viewer relationships between artworks, like those between this collage jean conner made in 1973…


and this one by wangechi mutu from 2013…  two different perspectives on conventions of female beauty, using many of the same elements and a nearly identical composition.



cd copy

bruce conner, cardinale gibbons, archbishop of baltimore, 1990, collaged engravings, 8×7 inches, hanging above john o’rielly’s self-portrait.


when you’re putting an exhibition together, you create coherence by repeating themes (take a scroll back and look at how many figures, faces, hands or containers are in the works included in the show), by stressing formal relationships,


mathew hale, page 9 of miriam’s body, 2013 mixed media 27x17x3 inches and sarah cain women & power, 2013 silk blouse, beads, chain, feathers, acrylic, glitter and twine on canvas 84 x 56 inches.


and recurring materials (four of the three-dimensional works in the show use feathers and six flat works have images of feathers),

or simply though color.


andrew schoultz, rina banerje, liliana porter and raymond saunders.

artworks get sited to call attention to those relationships,


 top left and bottom right, jean conner.  top right, john o’reilly.   bottom left, liliana porter.


foreground, patricia piccinini, background, vic muniz, john o’reilly, jay defeo and matt lipps.



left to right, john o’reilly, jay defeo, jean conner.



left to right, raymond saunders, emil lukas, patricia piccinini and nick cave.



piccinini and hawkinson.


and to create compositional rhythm and balance.

c20 copy


you could say that curating a group exhibition, is itself a form of collage.





the show is up through the 16th of august.

the photography for this post is all by david stroud.

the work of jay defeo is copyright the jay defeo trust/artists rights society/ars, new york.