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By Cecil Touchon
Special to The PREVIEW
Over 500 collages and assemblages by artists from 31 countries are on view through May of 2013 at the Archives of the International Museum of Collage, Assemblage and Construction at 262 Pagosa St. in Pagosa Springs.
Director Cecil Touchon put out the word starting in early 2010 for artists to contribute works celebrating the 100-year anniversary of modern collage and assemblage art.
Hundreds of artists from around the world responded generously to help create this impressive exhibition and to expand the museum’s permanent collection of collage and assemblage art.
Collage and assemblage have been around for many centuries and in many forms all over the world. However, in western culture, once dominated by painting and stone or bronze sculpture, the introduction of collage and assemblage was a radical shift. It is difficult now, with these new mediums having come fully into their own, for us to imagine what a leap it must have been in 1912 to consider disrupting the purity of the dominate mediums by the inclusion of foreign elements.
At the time, in the midst of intense shifts in perception about the world and about the cultural status quo, disruption and disorientation were becoming normal states of mind from which to work. The perception of the world was becoming less solid and more open to endless possibilities while the supremacy of painting was being brought into question by the growth of photography. This is evidenced quite well in the Analytic Cubist experiments of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, that gave rise to both collage and assemblage.
The spread of collage and assemblage as new mediums deserving of attention by serious artists goes far beyond the mere fact of Picasso and Braque having introduced them. These new ways of working would have remained only an anomaly were it not for a number of other important and simultaneous technological, cultural and political factors.
For our purposes the ubiquity of paper, printing techniques, widespread literacy, books, magazines, news media, photography, advertising, mass transportation, automobiles, airplanes and the socio-political and cultural shake up epitomized by World War I are more than sufficient to lead to the growth of collage and assemblage in the European arts communities by the 1920s and 1930s, regardless of Cubism. In short, we could conjecture that is was an inevitability that collage would have arisen in the 20th century: the century of paper.
Immediately on the heals of Cubism was Futurism in Italy and Dada in Switzerland, Germany and then France. Dada produced Kurt Schwitters who many collage artists regard as the grandfather of collage. Schwitters can be said to have been the first artist to fully embrace collage as an art medium in its own right. His attitude toward found materials and appreciation of their physical characteristics and beauty opened the way to a new aesthetic, one that continues with us today.
An American artist who has been extremely influential on assemblage artists has been Joseph Cornell who was a master of the art of Box Assemblage which is a work of art assembled from various found objects using a box of some sort as a container or ground of the work.
There are many other artists whose work in collage and assemblage continue to have a strong influence today and perhaps the greatest masters have yet to be discovered. It is our hope, at the Collage Museum, to help to bring light to the interesting community of collage and assemblage artists and to create, with the help of this community, a unique collection of works in this field for study now and in the future.
Founded in the mid 1990s by collagist Cecil Touchon, the International Museum of Collage, Assemblage and Construction is an experiment in how to coordinate with other artists using the Internet as the main vessel of communication in order to create exhibitions and other projects. Also, how to create an open, inclusionary collecting museum that is cooperative rather than competitive, and that educates and inspires through example.
Based more on a scientific model of “specimen gathering,” the museum collects from across the contemporary field without the filter or influence of galleries, collectors or market values. Literally anyone working in this field can contribute without censure.
The Museum depends completely on the generosity of those artists who contribute to it. The museum’s collection is intended for study by artists working in the field of collage/assemblage. We invite such artists to occasionally contribute works to the collection to be studied and archived for the future.
The International Museum of Collage, Assemblage and Construction (CollageMuseum.com) is one of several wings of a broader museum project: The Ontological Museum (ontologicalmuseum.org).