Collage and montage are long-accepted principles of the fine arts, specifically in the visual arts. In the 1920s, cubist painters Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso were among the earliest pioneers of cubism’s attempt at synthesizing multiple perspectives into one single painting. Picasso and artist Marcel Duchamp also employed collage (from the French coller, meaning “to glue”). Both collage and cubism are defined as an assemblage of independent elements, once combined, that creates a new whole. What might Picasso have accomplished with Adobe Photoshop? Would his electronic source file (.PSD) be as important today as his artifacts of paint and paper?
English painter and collage artist Richard Hamilton’s 1956 collage titled Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing? was created for the exhibition This Is Tomorrow and is widely cited by historians as one of the earliest works of the pop-art movement. Indeed, today’s contemporary fine artists are evolving these same techniques but with new and innovative tools. The collage works of John Baldessari, Hans Haacke, David Salle, and Barbara Kruger and the rephotography of Sherrie Levine define the genre and bring established and sanctioned credentials to the practice.
Kenyan-born Wangechi Mutu is a prolific miximal artist who possesses skills as both a sculptor and an anthropologist. Her work is primarily based in the millennial decade and explores the various incongruities of the female role and the corresponding relationships to its traditional cultural identity. Her work infuses woman-centric issues with references to contemporary African politics against the background of colonial history, as well as commentary on the worldwide high fashion industry. Her 2005 work titled Erasing Infestation: An Exercise in Historical Futility, comprising ink, packing tape, fur, and contact paper on a wall, illustrates a command of drawing and painterly techniques, as well as a healthy dose of both collage and montage using found and created objects that transcend the material components and create a transformational view of cultural commentary.
Irish artist Seán Hillen (born 1961) is a photomontage artist whose work typifies a modern interpretation of what originally started in the Dada movement with artist/photographers John Heartfield and Johannes Baader, along with Hannah Höch, Raoul Hausmann, and George Grosz. Photomontage is a widely established form of fine art expression recognized by many contemporary masters, such as Julia Fullerton-Batten, born in 1970 in Bremen, whose work comments on and is firmly rooted in the millennial decade.
Examples in the graphic fine arts are also easy to find. The culture jamming brilliance of Masami Teraoka is a contemporary artist born in 1936 in Onomichi, a township near Hiroshima, Japan, has mastered the fine art of traditional Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints but with a decidedly miximal slant. While his work can be associated with other conventional labels of fine art genre, the paintings completed after his arrival in the United States often celebrate the collision (mashup) of Japanese and Western cultures. His series McDonald’s Hamburgers Invading Japan and print 31 Flavors Invading Japan utilize time-honored colors, orthodox illustration techniques, and traditional Japanese imagery, but he unexpectedly introduces a contrasting subject matter. By featuring his geisha-esque subjects eating a McDonald’s hamburger or licking a Baskin-Robbins ice cream cone with their traditional crossed eyes and extended tongues, he successfully mixes Eastern and Western cultures to produce works of art that are neither.
I have been conducting many interviews with some of the celebrated masters of miximal fine arts and will be publishing excerpts and analysis of their experiences and works in future posts. Stay tuned!