Architecture is inevitably collage. A building is “pasted” into an existing mix—a streetscape in the city or natural landscape in the country. The architect considers how the new “piece” will fit the rest of the composition. So it’s not surprising that lots of architects have made collages.
Richard Meier is one. In an age when architecture is a computer-dominated art, Meier’s collages are old-fashioned paper and paste. He insists, in fact, that his collages have nothing to do with his architecture.
One’s 3D, one’s 2D. One has to have a human scale, the other doesn’t. His buildings are mostly white, his collages are vividly colored, featuring red. For more comparisons, see Niki Smith’s exploration here.
Meier’s renderings of architectural plans are yet a third depiction of forms and shapes. And that tree (above) looks pasted on, doesn’t it? Look at the drawing next to the collage on its side (below). The shapes and textures echo. That’s in spite of the fact that neither one looks like an actual building.
It’s this aspect of drawing/collage/landscape that artist Kim Schoenstadt plays with in several forms. Here’s a computer-influenced collage-drawing, done with Mara Lonner. It’s called “Still Rivers Run (with Grand Rapids and Great Swiftness).”
The usual rough edges of collage are smoothed out inthis wall painting with mixed media. The artists say that this project is “rooted in the history of collage and conceptually mashes Grand Rapids and Los Angeles, visually mixes architecture and landscape, and physically combines material, texture, and layers.”
They list images “collaged,” including: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Meyer May House; the Pine Lodge Motel; a bird of prey; the rooftop Calder painting located on the Grand Rapids City Hall; the Grand River; the Devos Place Convention Center: and a swan boat.
Though done with conventional media, the result looks like a computer rendering. The style unifies the natural and man-made, two- and three-dimensional, iconic and vernacular into a homogeneous image.
Schoenstadt’s postcard series is different. Here, she exploits the contrast between the glossy photo-image and flat architectural drawing. To my mind, the most successful of these collages paste the drawing onto an entirely natural landscape.
These works highlight the way architecture, in essence, conflicts with nature. At least since ancient Egypt, buildings are aliens that have landed on earth. In Schoenstadt’s postcard series, the tension is both stressed and bridged by the stylized view of landscape we get in a picture postcard.
Locales of Schoenstadt’s postcard series range from Southern California, where she lives, and Germany, where she has exhibited. In other work, she has used architecture from Los Angeles; Sinai, Israel; and Salt Lake City.
This is architecture that local viewers recognize. “I like that moment when people have that ‘aha!,’ ” she says. “That’s when I got hooked on using architecture in my work.”
Schoenstadt has also done a range of work that is conceptual and sometimes interactive. For more about her art, see her website.
As for me, I grew up in central New Jersey, home of the Leaning Tower of Pizza, the Mr. Peanut shop, and the ship-shaped Flagship, which in my day was a furniture store. So Schoenstadt’s postcard/architecture mash-up looks like home to me.