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.”
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.
Melic Meeting (Spread), 1979
Mixed media including solvent transfer on fabric collage, and mirror
Robert Rauschenberg was a pioneer in collage, but he didn’t do fashion. Well, unless you consider putting a tire around a stuffed goat as accessorization.
He did owe some of his collage sensibility to his mother, who was a professional seamstress. Cutting out paper patterns was something Rauschenberg did from boyhood.
His collage breakthroughs in the 1950’s incorporated photo transfer processes that put mass media into art in a new way. And in recent years, his imagery has had its impact on fashion and fabric.