Through April 12, the Abernathy Arts Center is showing the work of eight collage and mixed media artists in Cut and Paste: Contemporary Collage and Mixed Media. The work on display varies from traditional hand cut collages to serigraph and ink jet prints. Collage and mixed media artists have the opportunity to modify and re-appropriate materials to create new images that tell new stories. This is done in this exhibition, however, with varying success. The highlights of the exhibit are the artists who have bypassed paint and ink jets and used only their hands and paper.
Jaynie Crimmins’s two works, Aggregation 1 and Aggregation 2, represent work we’ve come to expect from her. Since 2003, Crimmins has been using found materials in her work. “Household paper,” as stated in the description, is intricately folded, bound with thread and shaped into a warped spiral. The topography—each piece rises about 4 inches from the cradled board—of her unique style added a welcomed variety to the show.
John Morse’s, The Four Seasons, is an impressive example of collage done on a large scale. The four 44 x 32 inch collages show a tree changing through the seasons. Each work is divided into 54 four-inch squares. The large elements of the collages—the tree, the sky, the ground—are made of fragments and strips of paper. This is Morse’s calling card and they’re so thoroughly done, you’d be forgiven to mistake his collages for paintings from a distance. Up close though, printed words can be seen on the paper, but to no detriment. It simply reinforces to the viewer that what they see is made of re-appropriated material. Also impressive is the shading effect that Morse is able to create on the ground, in the clouds and in the leaves. The collages are so impressive, the question begs as to why the presentation of them isn’t done in a more professional way. Each piece is on a large sheet of paper, which has been attached to the wall with tape. No frame and no border. This makes the works look temporary and unworthy of the respect they deserve.
The same problem of presentation arises with Teresa Bramlette Reeves’s collection of collages created from the pages of art magazines. All 70 of the collages are held to the wall with protruding white thumbtacks. Only the top corners are secured, making the pages, which, are in varying conditions—some of the pages are torn or weathered— also protrude. Not only is the poor presentation distracting, but also the works themselves seem to have been created haphazardly with little regard for detail. Reaves uses images cut out from various art magazines and re-applies them to modify images from articles or advertisements in other art magazines. There are some interesting layering elements in a few of them, but any redeeming quality is easily lost. If there is an underlying concept or technical approach in this body of collages, it is not readily apparent.
Dayna Thacker’s black, white and sepia-toned collaged photographs in Selfless #3 are simple, yet captivating. Thacker has made two layers of photographs and removed the people from the top layer, letting the bottom layer show through in their places. The precisely modified photographs are arranged side-by-side and stretch for about eight feet. Each collaged photograph carries a sense of nostalgia that has been transformed into something new. The small size of each collage draws the viewer in close to get a good look, allowing a sense of intimacy with the figures. And because there are faces or identifying characteristics in the figures, they can also become universal.
Using found paper and images skillfully, and in a properly executed way, takes unique vision. This exhibition would have benefited from closer consideration to the presentation of the work, done with the intention of pushing the audience to see something new and innovative—even if the material is repurposed.