William Mortensen

18 03 2011

William Mortensen seems preoccupied with sexual themes in his work. He is often contrasting ideal beauty with ideal ugliness. In my view he is contrasting a kind of idealized existence that humans imagine themselves living in against the real ugliness and indifference of life. His work is arresting. And there is a voyeur aspect to it. And in that sense we are on the outside looking in. The viewer is not part of either of Mortensen’s views (beauty/ugly) (madonna/monster). Mortensen’s work is all photographic. By that I mean he doesn’t appear to use cut and paste.

Herbert Bayer

17 03 2011

One of the last members of the Bauhaus group, Bayer had a very productive life in America. I have a mixed reaction to his work. I like his collages but find myself disinterested in graphic work, Mayer’s or anyone else’s.

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy

15 03 2011

László Moholy-Nagy was a Hungarian artist, painter, photographer, part of the Bauhaus group. He was  a “a strong advocate of the integration of technology and industry into the arts”. He was influenced by constructionism, a mode of thought that came out of Russia. It thought that the artist should concern himself with social issues rather than personal ones. I’m not a big fan of these collages. They seem sterile and humorless.


14 03 2011

I have just become aware of this Czech group, the Devetsil.  Because of the Iron Curtain they remained almost  unknown in the west. I see this work as primitive. Simple and straightforward. They are the kind of collages that everyone thinks they can do. And maybe they are right.

“The first manifesto of Devětsil urged new artists to look deeper into ordinary objects for poetic quality. Skyscrapers, airplanes, mimes, and poster lettering were the new arts. Inspired by the Berlin Dadaists, Seifert claimed “art is dead.” Following him, Teige remarked, “the most beautiful paintings in existence today are the ones which were not painted by anyone.”


13 03 2011

I love Magritte. How could you not? He’s funny. And he’s Belgian. (I lived there for four years. My son was born there. My wife is Belgian. Outside of the weather, its a wonderful place on the planet.) Magritte has affected many artists. But it is his love by the public that is so interesting. No one asks if his work is art. They just smile.

I created one piece with Magritte in mind.

This is an excerpt from a Wikipedia article on Magritte.

Magritte’s work frequently displays a juxtaposition of ordinary objects in an unusual context, giving new meanings to familiar things. The representational use of objects as other than what they seem is typified in his painting, The Treachery of Images (La trahison des images), which shows a pipe that looks as though it is a model for a tobacco store advertisement. Magritte painted below the pipe “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” (“This is not a pipe”), which seems a contradiction, but is actually true: the painting is not a pipe, it is an image of a pipe. It does not “satisfy emotionally”—when Magritte once was asked about this image, he replied that of course it was not a pipe, just try to fill it with tobacco.


Max Ernst

13 03 2011

You can’t help running into Max Ernst’s work. For one thing, he has a fabulous name for a surrealist. And his work is always fascinating, fun, and unexpected.

I quote from the history of collage.

Max Ernst discovered the process of surreal collage in 1919, using Victorian engravings (many originally made from photographs), … “I was struck by the obsession which held under my gaze the pages of an illustrated catalogue … It was enough at that time to embellish these catalogue pages, in painting or drawing, and thereby … transformed into revealing dramas my most secret desires from what had been before only some banal pages of advertising.” Ernst credited Max Klinger (1857-1920), a Symbolist painter, as the inspiration for his collages. Many of Ernst’s collages might better be termed composites – because many strive for a seamless consistency.

George Grosz

11 03 2011

Over the years I kept running into the work of Grosz. He seems to have captured that Nazi gene that exists in too many people. Its that look of arrogance of power. And its brutality. I saw some of this influence in the early work of John Lennon.

Martin Gerlach (jr)

9 03 2011

I did not see many of these postcards but I understand they were very popular in the beginning of the 19th century. Some of them are very clever.

La Nature

9 03 2011

These are examples of some of the early collages that I was exposed to. I remember being so taken with them that I included Xeroxed copies of them in an English essay I did on Camus. My mark was average. When I asked to talk to the English prof about the paper, she refused to see me. There was a lot of paranoia in the English Department in the middle 1960s. A lot of these collages looked like conversations between characters. Like they were talking about the weather. Or the price of tomatoes. There is a sense of normalcy in them. And humor. Monty Python captured both these qualities in their collage cartoons.

domestic collage

6 03 2011

I see a lot of this type of collage work.  They call it crafts. Although that sounds condescending. It is not very exciting but you can tell that people find great satisfaction in their creations.

“As fine engravings proliferated in affordable printed material, a practice of amateur collage grew up among affluent girls and women in the industrialising world. The products of this domestic craft — unusual and distorted images inside ‘scrap’ albums and on fire-screens filled with re-combined chromolithographs, engraved prints, and even original domestic photographs — would have been known only to their family and intimate social circle. But the practice nevertheless ran in parallel to the standard photography of the time, and it may have informed the craze for surreal combination printing in the 1880s.”