A peek inside my bag of collage papers
A cafe in Paris, 1925. Suddenly, a little guy with a monocle jumps up at his table, crying “Follow me.” A “prime collection of zanies” leap to their feet, dashing out without paying for their coffee.
Out in the streets of Paris, the monocled guy—–like the Pied Piper———-leads the rest. “Solemnfaced,” they march, “executing a number of idiotic maneuvers.” All the while, they’re chanting: Dada, Dada, Dada.”
Robert Motherwell, “Jeune Fille,” 1944 Oil, ink, gouache, and pasted Kraft drawing paper, colored paper, Japanese paper, German decorative paper, and fabric on canvas board.
That headline needs some ‘splainin’, as Ricky Ricardo used to say. First, Dada—————-the more radical offshoot of Surrealism. Dada was thought up after World War I by a bunch of punk writers and artists in Europe. Okay, they didn’t use the word “punk.” But they were rebels. They flirted with nihilism. They wanted to shock.
I think of Banksy as the Zorro of the art world. Masked? Nobody knows his real identity–reportedly, not even his parents, who think he’s a high-end decorator.
After dark, he might turn up anywhere. He dazzles with his swordplay–okay, make that spray paint play. Then he vanishes into the night.
His art leans heavily on stencilled figures and silhouettes, gritty content, in-your-face messages. EVen if some of it later is sold for six figures. Still, this is illegal street art.
Lil Picard, “Burnt Ties” 1968
Machismo in reverse. In the early ’60’s, Lil Picard had been using women’s cosmetics as primary materials in her collages and assemblages. In 1968, she exhibited the burnt neckties at a show called “Destruction in Art.”
Critic Lucy Lippard wrote, ” “In 1967, using (perhaps not coincidentally) her husband’s real silk neckties, Picard began to burn things.” The ties were shown a few years later at Lajeski Gallery in New York with an added performance element: Picard used matches and irons to singe gallery-goers’ neckties.
Lil Picard, “Vin Ordinaries Chatel du Roy,” 1957 (Collage and oil on canvas)
A cabaret performer in Berlin before World War II. An artist in New York scavenging the streets for collage materials in the 1940’s. A journalist covering the art scene in New York in the fifties. A pioneering performance artist in early ’60’s “happenings” (think Cafe a Go Go). An habitue of Warhol’s factory who appeared in his films and wrote for Interview.
You’d think someone with this resume would be famous. But you’ve probably never heard of Lil Picard. I know I hadn’t.
Henri Matisse, “The Flowing Hair,” 1952 gouache on cutout paper
Matisse did it playfully. It was only later that he got obsessed.
It started like this. One day in 1941, Matisse was visiting his friend, Tériade, publisher of an art magazine. The office shelves were filled with samples of printers’ inks in vivid colors. Matisse started cutting little shapes. Tériade thought they’d make a good cover for the magazine, Verve.
It was a hit. Then Teriade suggested a book. But Matisse was busy painting. It was only when he became ill and couldn’t paint that Matisse decided to while away his recovery by making a book of cutouts and text called Jazz.
Mies van der Rohe “Ink and Photo Collage with Glass” 1960-3
Courtesy of MOMA
Yes, the iconic minimalist architect made collages. You can see some of them in the current MOMA show Cut ‘n’ Paste. Drawings of his spare building designs are collaged with cut-out art pasted in front, like a Maillot nude.
To me it looked like Mies trying to “sex up” his architecture because minimalism isn’t sexy. A lean, stripped figure lying on the ground? Well, okay, maybe some people would find this sexy. In a Shades of Grey kind of way. Maybe my initial reaction was too hasty. I decided to do a Google exploring the question.