Guest Post by John Andrew Dixon
I am honored that my friend and collage artist, John Andrew Dixon has written a comprehensive post about the amazing JUXTAPOSE exhibit, that you can still experience at the Community Art Center until April 2. Grab a cup of coffee, and treat yourself to this expansive virtual tour before seeing the many artworks in person. Be sure to follow the links to the artist pages, and John’s insightful Collage Miniature posts. You will emerge fully versed in this art form.
by John Andrew Dixon
I’ll admit it. I can’t get enough of JUXTAPOSE, the current exhibition of collage and assemblage at the Community Arts Center in Danville, Kentucky. That’s not exactly the most humble thing to say about a show that features a dozen of my artworks, but I won’t try to restrain myself or pretend that I can offer an unbiased review. Thanks to the support of the Corning Incorporated Foundation, program director Brandon Long has organized a finely curated, must-see destination that brings together over a thousand examples of the two associated mediums (literally, but I’ll explain that in a moment). This is an unprecedented group show for the Bluegrass-based artists involved. I am thrilled and gratified to be exhibiting side-by-side with Kathleen O’Brien, Teri Dryden, Robert Hugh Hunt, Meg Higgins, Connie Beale, and many others. No doubt my enthusiasm has something to do with its location less than a city block from my studio, which bestows the luxury of repeated immersions, and there is over a month left in the duration!
There are more participants than I can profile individually, and far too many artworks to highlight. The best example of this is an upstairs gallery devoted to three complete, year-long series of collage-a-day works by Kathleen O’Brien, Brandon Long, and Nan Martindale. Combined with almost two hundred of Robert Hugh Hunt’s provocative collage collaborations, the magnitude of miniature artworks presented in a single space could be overwhelming. As an exhibition designer, Long uses geometric grids, browsing boxes, and two flat-screen displays to make the huge collection comprehensible for viewers. Kathleen’s sensitive, meticulously layered collection of daily two-sided postcards is a journey to which I surrender with pleasure each time I visit, but only after a jolting romp through Hunt’s rarely exhibited “Hillbilly Voodoo” series with Terry R Flowers.
An opportunity to view works by six outstanding Louisville-based artists is worth the trip to Danville. Several major works by Meg Higgins captured my first impression. Two enormous pieces composed with transparent elements sandwiched between Plexiglas are suspended between the vestibule and grand gallery. I was equally impressed by a smaller collage on wood panel, “Japanese Peony Goes to Italy,” with its exquisite East-West flavor. Brad Devlin’s solid but clever exploitation of found objects yields bold abstractions that simultaneously maintain a strong environmental essence. His “Open Sunday” and “No Stopping” are also physically more complex than they first appear, and this allows the artisanship of his assemblage to become a secondary experience deserving of scrutiny.
Masters of juxtaposition who reinforce the theme of the exhibition as well as anyone taking part, Patrick Donley, Lisa Austin and Brandon Bass each define a distinctive individual style. Approach to composition, color considerations, and a playful choice of ingredients form undercurrents that tie their pieces together, and Long knows how to modulate the walls in a way that makes groupings of their work satisfying to study. Although she has recently gained attention for her paintings, there are at least seven panels by Teri Dryden from a handsome body of work created from discarded books. Her “Monteith’s Marrakesh” and “Detours Not Destinations” exemplify how her investigation successfully transcended the source material. Personally, I hope she rotates to collage again for another dynamic round of re-purposing cast-off items.
In addition to a pair of shadow boxes, my only surrealist assemblage, and six favorite collage miniatures, JUXTAPOSE has provided me an opportunity to exhibit “Bull’s-eye Nosegay” for the first time, which I created for the Target Practice Project initiated by Laura T Holmes. Also, I did two larger artworks especially for this show. Each makes more than a fleeting nod to collage artists that I admire.
What is it about “Cherry Balm” that causes me to think I just might be “tipping my beret” to the inimitable Matthew Rose? “Reliquia” is my tribute to the late Fred Otnes, a giant within the medium who has been a force in my consciousness since adolescence. “Pearallelograms” was held over from the previous exhibition at the Center, but the crowning delight for me may well be the presence of “Kentucky Madonna,” last year’s “finish” by Robert Hugh Hunt to my “start.” The collaborative piece is a companion to “Kentucky Sovereign” (my “finish” to Robert’s “start”), currently part of the IT TAKES TWO exhibition of collaborations at the Kentucky Artisan Center in Berea. Robert and I can’t ask for more than to know that both are now available to the public (unless someone wants to give them a good home).
I am no art historian, but I can’t help but be mindful of the pioneering artists who laid a hundred-year foundation for the sweeping diversity of this exhibition. The creative innovations of Picasso, Braque, Duchamp, Schwitters, Höch, Cornell, Johnson, and Kolář reverberate throughout the building. In many respects, all contemporary collage/assemblage is a tacit homage to these seminal influences, but that is never the only thing at work nor the only phenomena to be perceived when one indulges an exhibition of this scope. Most artists are striving for a personal means of expression informed by those who have made their enduring mark on a medium. I am convinced, more than ever, that what distinguishes contemporary collage/assemblage artists is their keen connection to the mundane “stuff” of culture and the inner need to bring a measure of order and harmony from the sheer volume of material produced by our throw-away society, with its chaotic effect on our sensibilities — to create value where none exists, or to find wonder, meaning, significance, and beauty where none can be expected.
Photo credit; John Andrew Dixon