’Cut ’n’ Paste’: MoMA explores the art of collage
In 1961 New York’s Museum of Modern Art surveyed the art of assemblage in an exhibition that brought the fragmented work of Kurt Schwitters, Joseph Cornell, Bruce Conner and Edward Kienholz to a wider audience. More than 50 years later, the museum has raided the archives for the finest examples of collage, a sister artform that layers, juxtaposes and remixes materials not just physically but conceptually.
’Cut ’n’ Paste’, curated by Pedro Gadanho and Phoebe Springstubb of MoMA’s department of architecture and design, takes an oft overlooked technique and reveals it as an apt and meaningful commentator on our contemporary culture.
The show goes back to the early 20th century - to figures like Edward Steichen and Giorgio de Chirico - to explore a genre that’s bridged the Cubist works of Picasso and Braque (the style, after all, takes its name from the French ’coller’). It takes a visual journey through Surrealism, Pop Art and Postmodernism. And it reveals how architects starting with Mies van der Rohe adopted the cut-and-paste technique to bring their work alive. The curators reverentially refer to this architectural overlap as ’collage city’; extensive layering brings a depth to these works that is almost immersive.
En route, this many-layered showcase gives a history of the past century, a lesson that goes beyond the crèche into a far higher realm.