What do Yoruba costumes, Cindy Sherman, and giant sculptural sunglasses have in common? They’re all part of a new installation put together by fashion designer Duro Olowu (he doesn’t use the term curated). It all started with his mother.
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.”
Say you’re planning a show of antique children’s costumes. You know, Little Red Riding Hood. Martha Washington. A Maltese water carrier. But you want to jazz it up a little———–after all, this is 2013. Who you gonna call?
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.
Jim Hodges does a lot with flowers. Also mirrors, granite, scarves, and, oh yeah, paper. The results are magical and exhilarating. Also fragile and sorrowful. In many of his works, a collage aesthetic is at play.
Paper was the first material that fascinated him. He talked about it during his 2009 exhibition Love, Etc. at the Centre Pompidou in Paris in an interview with Christophe Ecoffet. Hodges liked “the flexibility of paper, how paper can tear, and be unfolded and folded.” In one work, he collaged hearts cut from painted newspaper.
“A kind of artistic bag lady.” That’s how one French critic described sculptor Isa Genzken. Her “bricollage of materials and manners, idioms and styles creates a willful and bewildering confusion.”
An English critic went further. He saw the artist’s work in the context of what he calls “the one insurmountable fact” about her, “that Genzken suffers from prolonged periods of mental ill-health.”
What? An artist making work whose meaning you can’t “always grasp”? She must be nuts! Whatever Genzken’s difficulties, the “ungraspable” quality of an artwork hardly qualifies as a reason to get out the butterfly nets.
Picasso did it with swagger (and of course glue). Around 1912 he stole the pasted-paper idea from Braque. “After having made the papier collés, I felt a great shock,” said Braque, “and it was an even greater shock to Picasso when I showed it to him.”
But where the other cubist had used art-ready cut papers, Picasso scavenged. Sheet music, newspaper scraps, the label from a packet of tobacco, cloth. The contrast of the real stuff with the painted forms was new. For the collage above, Homme á la Pipe (Le Fumeur), 1914, he ripped a piece of the old wallpaper off his studio wall and stuck it on the canvas. Warch a short MOMA video about the materials in Picasso’s early collages here.
“Stuck on you.” At the time, in France, collage was slang for “living in sin.” In his excellent Collage; The Making of Modern Art, Brandon Taylor says that Picasso’s early collages provoked a “frisson of excitement at the sight of a coupling…illicit…at the very limits of aesthetic decency.”