My debut show of collages is up here in Lawrence, Kansas at the Wonder Fair Gallery. In a sense it’s a long time coming. I’ve been doing collage-work – helplessly, randomly – for years now, drawn to the faded ink, the mod layouts, and the large- scale photography like a moth to a flame. As an outlet, it can be wonderfully meditative or anxiously urgent. When the light in my apartment is right, the images glow and their relationships are all tone and color. They’re like film stills, all barely-contained saturation and grain. From first encounter through latest find, the hook for me is one of pure aesthetics.
In other moods, in other light, it can get angstier. The history in these magazines from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s is still so fluid and unresolved. The culture-clashes between square and hip, war and peace, corporate and creative, Republican and Democrat are in endless evidence and the consequences of their clashes ripple through our lives: imperial presidencies, bullshit wars, corrupting power – and then the hope that this can be a better world and the burning courage to make it so. My aim has been to attempt to create justice – whether visual or narrative – when I encounter injustice. Military propaganda practically begs for distortion. The Reagans and their smug, white-gloved disdain for civil rights, pacifism, the under-privileged, the young and passionate and alive, are open season for wedgies, comeuppance, a cold, hard shiv. It can feel incredibly empowering to tweak history with scissors and caffeine.
I had never thought much about showing my collage work before the opportunity at Wonder Fair came up. I hadn’t really considered what I’d been doing, over time, in it’s entirety. My method has always been to produce spurts of work, cluttering the floor with clippings, and then take what I’d done and stick it in a drawer – or, occasionally, somewhere on the wall. It was all destined for an attic. But once the idea of a show took shape and I started looking at the work as inter-related, I was struck by two things: how much my fucking with things had become a personal, alternative take on the era and how much narrative possibility there was in the combinations of these new images – collage-ing the collages, so to speak.
The show that’s up now at Wonder Fair is an attempt to make sense of years worth of collecting and recontextualizing these magazines. I’ve tried to honor original intentions while at the same time trying to play off them and tease out other connections. The text that says “Ice-Breakers:”, for instance, refers both to the famous V-Day kiss that it’s pasted over and, in the context of the show, to the images on the wall that succeed it. So the “Ice-Breakers” are the appropriation of a famous Life magazine photo, the Pope bowing to the Ayatollah, a gay man who is “drunk” and “coming over to your side”, a topless cut-out getting off in an art museum, half of Picasso’s war-ravaged “Guernica” spliced beneath the text “Picasso’s Erotic Engravings”, and an uncredited quadruple McDonald’s Big Mac. Hopefully some humor, some satire, some beauty, some weight – some evidence of the possibilities of collage.
And then this short wall is the “Ice-Breaker” for the long wall, where the first third kind of goes for broke: Nixon with a tank in his belly, a naked girl bent over the stove at a cocktail party, a boy holding a picture of Arafat over the credits for “Alien”, Nancy Reagan repping Tampax, a war protester repping the Marines. I wanted conflict and chaos and identity politics all slamming in to one another, the way they did at the time – the way they still do, however more craftily. The second third of the long wall I envisioned more ambient and stony, a transition in to a world in which the counter-culture won, where the suburbs and cars and televisions are psychedelic, and there’s a charged connection with the moon and the sun. And then the last third’s an American grab-bag of brands, money, ideas of other places, ideals of contentment and, hopefully, a little of the magic in our lives.
The decision to print and sell a magazine composed entirely of collage was as much an attempt at an art object as the apotheosis of an idea: that we’re free to take what’s already been done and re-cast it, remix it, recycle it, breathe new life into it. The return of these images to a printer, a binder, completes that cycle. For what it’s worth, they cost about $10 per 48-page magazine to print. We printed a one-run, limited-edition of 100. The magazine is being sold for $20 and can be purchased via mail order HERE.
I hope you get a chance to check out the show. If not, I hope you’ll still dig the magazine. I would love any recommendations for other collagists to check out. I have a few of my own, stand-outs from the New Museum in New York’s “The Generational: Younger Than Jesus” show, where they showcased artists under the age of 33. I thought the two artists doing collage were pretty ace. They are Haris Epaminonda, a 29 year old based in Berlin, and Elad Lassry, a 32 year old in Los Angeles.
And please check back at this “Zaguar Collage” site, where I plan to post new work as it comes.