The Main Gallery
June 20—August 11, 2019
June 20, 6-8pm
unfoldingobject — the art of collage
- a work of art that resists instant legibility and reveals content and meaning through multiple viewings over time.
- a work of art, often a collage, that is capable of being interpreted in various ways.
- visual, emotional, associative, poetic, or conceptual transformation in a work of art.
1 + 1 = 3
Collage is odd math. One thing plus another thing equals a third thing.
“Unfoldingobject” is a neologism created to describe the quality in a particular work of art that provokes discovery upon each encounter. Collage making is a creative process that embodies the principles of unfoldingobject. It inherently incorporates materials used for dual or augmented purposes and typically involves combining retrofitted images and materials that together transform these parts into something new. It is an infinitely open process that allows artists to enfold ideas and experiences into a cohesive whole despite being born of fractured components. From the use and alteration of found and appropriated elements to the fabrication of materials and images created for specific purposes, collage-based art encourages looking, curiosity, and invention for artists and viewers alike.
unfoldingobject showcases the art of 50 artists selected for the varying ways in which they couple and cobble together composite images. The collected works on view celebrate the myriad ways that collage artists listen to the picture to find opportunities and possibilities within found materials. unfoldingobject is an exhibition of artwork that values the slow read, and it showcases imagery that reveals and provokes connections over multiple viewings.
Collage came into the vanguard of modern art in 1912 when Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque began adding paper elements they did not make themselves to their paintings and drawings. The revolution of papier collé changed forever not only how paintings can be made, but how art, in general, can be made. Over the last century, collage evolved into a practice that has become boundless. It was emancipated from the confines of flat paper into the disciplines of the readymade, assemblage, installation art, performance art, and video art. The practice has become ubiquitous and is widely applied through every possible genre from Dada to Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism to Minimalism, Pop Art to Conceptual Art, and collage has been applied in every possible subject from still-life to portraiture to landscape to political art. Furthermore, with the example of digital art, today collage can be made without using paper and glue. Collage is perhaps the only vehicle for creative expression that can incorporate any and all forms of expression and is therefore the most pluralistic and democratic of all art practices. Collage is particularly well suited to balance contrasting differences, multiple points of view, and any physical or cerebral material.
Despite the ceaseless innovation that it provides, collage is often overlooked or dismissed as a respectable art form because it is typically, but not always, made with things an artist did not make themselves. Amidst longstanding attitudes about authorship and originality, artwork made by incorporating found, recycled, and reused materials is often deemed a lesser art form. Collage artists dismiss the criteria of originality, preferring to discard such blinders as too limiting. Collage artists understand what Jean-Luc Godard meant when he stated, “It’s not where you take things from — it’s where you take them to.” Prized highly by collage practitioners is the ability to see potential invention in scavenged materials by combining and altering them. Collage artists are alchemists, interested in the act of seeing that sparks a transformation of something old into something new.
What kind of glue holds together an idea, a visual relationship, a memory, a pattern, a poetic connection, a leap of the imagination or a call for justice? A collage may look easy to make, but that is a deceiving aspect of the process. Collages are all made by finding materials, minding how to use them, and ultimately binding them together. unfoldingobject provides opportunities to marvel at the use, the alteration and the transformation of created, found, and appropriated things. Visitors will find many examples of collage: traditional paper collage, assemblage, altered books, the fabrication of materials created for specific purposes, a readymade, and a site-specific installation set into the second-floor gallery skylight. They will also find uncollage—a neologism to describe paintings and digital collage, among other forms of art, that are dependent on composite imagery but undo or otherwise hide its collage underpinnings. Collage-based art encourages looking, making connections, and mind play. Moreover, especially in today’s age of smartphones and tablets, which literally put the world and its history in our hands, unfoldingobject reminds us of the importance of the handmade work of art and the value of slowing down in order to take a second and third look.
Todd Bartel, Curator, June 2019
Alfred DeCredico, untitled, 1983, collage, 5.625 x 8.125 inches
photo credit: Todd Bartel
Todd Bartel received a BFA in painting from RISD (1985) and an MFA in painting from Carnegie Mellon (1993). He was a Jacob K. Javits Fellow in 1990 and received a Connecticut Council on the Arts Grant in 2000. He has been a guest critic at RISD & Vermont Collage and New Hampshire Art Institute. He teaches drawing, painting, collage and conceptual art at the Cambridge School of Weston (MA) and is the founder & Gallery Director of the Thompson Gallery, now in its 13th year. His collage-based work examines the roles of landscape and nature in contemporary culture.