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Some Assembly Required: Collage Culture in Post-War America

June 7 - August 17, 2003


Some Assembly Required: Collage Culture in Post-War America traverses some of the most significant movements in modern art -- Dada, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, conceptual art, feminist art, and new media among them. Focusing on the last half-century, the exhibition reveals what a fertile strategy collage has been for generations of American artists. (right: David Wojnarowicz, American (1954-1992) Tommy's Illness/Mexico City, 1987, Acrylic and collage on Masonite, 36 x 35 inches, University Art Collection, New School University, New York, New York. Photo courtesy of the Estate of David Wojnarowicz and PPOW)

"Over the course of the twentieth century," writes co-curator Thomas Piché, Jr., "collage has revolutionized our ideas about the nature of art." The sheer variety of works included bears this out, from painting and assemblage to photography and digital art. With a focus on developments since World War II, Some Assembly Required: Collage Culture in Post-War America touches on some of the most significant movements in modern art. Among the 43 artists represented are Romare Bearden, Joseph Cornell, Robert Heinecken, Barbara Kruger, Robert Motherwell, Robert Rauschenberg and Cindy Sherman. The exhibition also features a number of figures often overlooked for their singular contributions to our "collage culture."

Some Assembly Required illustrates how an esthetic cultivated by the European avant-garde took hold in the American ethos. As speed, fragmentation, and simultaneity came to define American life, artists turned to non-art materials and sought new techniques for their expressive potential. Candy wrappers, newspaper clippings, and other everyday objects took on new meaning in works by Bruce Conner, Al Hansen and Tom Wesselman, among others. (left: Betye Saar, American (b. 1926), Lullaby, 1999, Mixed-media assemblage, 16-1/2 x 9-3/4 x 3/4 inches, Courtesy of Maryanne Mott and Herman Warsh, Santa Barbara, California, © Betye Saar)

Some Assembly Required makes its vast subject manageable through four sections. The first explores the historical origins of collage culture through photographic reproductions of influential early twentieth-century artworks. The exhibition then takes up the period leading up to the groundbreaking exhibition The Art of Assemblage at the Museum of Modern Art (1961). The third section examines the role of the Vietnam War, the women's and civil rights movements in popularizing collage processes. The final segment of the exhibition considers contemporary manifestations of the collage esthetic. (right: Christian Marclay, American (b. 1955), Slow Hand (from the series Body Mix), 1992, Altered record album covers, thread, collage, 41 x 24 inches, Courtesy of the artist and Paula Cooper Gallery, New York, New York, © Christian Marclay. Photo Adam Reich)

The exhibition is accompanied by a full-color catalogue featuring reproductions of the works included as well as essays by the exhibition's curators.

Some Assembly Required: Collage Culture in Post-War America is organized by the Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, New York. Funding for the Wisconsin presentation of the exhibition has been provided by: Miller Brewing Company; the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission with additional funds from the Madison Community Foundation and the Overture Foundation; Jan Marshall Fox and Don Bednarek; The Brittingham Fund, Inc., Trustee of the Madison Trust; The Art League of the Madison Art Center; the Exhibition Initiative Fund; the Madison Art Center's 2003-2004 Sustaining Benefactors; and a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin.

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Search for more articles and essays on American art in Resource Library. See America's Distinguished Artists for biographical information on historic artists.

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