Collage and assemblage date back to the early 20th century, when the avant-garde developed a new visual language incorporating ephemera from daily living – a train ticket here, a bit of newspaper there, brown wrapping paper, string, and the like – into innovative compositions. Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso explored and developed collage as fine art, a radical departure from the established traditions of painting and drawing.
Surrealist and Dada artists such as Joseph Cornell, Hannah Höch, Kurt Schwitters, Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, and Max Ernst further developed and embraced collage and assemblage as primary modes of expression. Working with printed materials, especially photographs, they evolved a poetic and often disturbing visual language oh so familiar now.
Robert Warner, Mac Premo revisit the innovations of a century ago
Engaging in collage today takes a certain amount of fortitude, given the preponderance of sophomoric and provincial work seen in this medium. “The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.” So said Voltaire, and of this Robert Warner and Mac Premo are well aware. Both have internalized the processes and vocabulary of collage and assemblage, both are influenced by surrealism, and both are formalists who create visual poetry in intimate constructions.
“Returning to Angelica”
“My Systems Are In Your Hands”
Pavel Zoubok Gallery
533 W. 23rd St.
Tue.-Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Through Feb. 9
Warner's body of work is a reflection on memories of seven generations of family roots in Angelica, a small rural town in upstate New York. By carefully editing materials that could quickly become kitsch, Warner assembles evocative bits of visual poetry. Wielding vintage printed materials, optic lenses, and various found pieces of life, he creates intimate collages and constructions. You won't find innovation here, but you will find personal references infused with a formalist sense of beauty and composition that results in many visual gems.
“My Systems Are In Your Hands” is Mac Premo's first solo with this gallery. Premo makes resin-encased constructions informed by his ongoing investigations into systems theory – an interdisciplinary field of science concerned with the nature of complex systems. Premo's art serves as a framework for his reflections on systems in nature, society, and science. Intuitive, visual logic evident in his constructions exposes his interest in the innate human impulse to order and understand the world through naming and categorizing.
Premo's work is at its best when he juxtaposes lyrical minimalism with surrealist imagery. Riffing on post-minimalist practice, his well-crafted boxes expose and feature construction materials and methods. A love of wood is evident in his careful handling of his materials.
Premo establishes the illusion of deep space in shallow windows that hold surreal fragments of images, and then reveals layers of his construction materials at their clean edges. In “Flat Extrusions Versus an Orchestrated Incidental,” the clean edge is composed of plywood, foam insulation, paint, various hardwoods, and resin, providing a satisfying look at the dissected guts of the box.
A departure from his static constructions, Premo's short film becomes a living diorama. Fast-moving images based on news stories move in a staccato flow of stop-motion animation, bringing a cynical sense of humor to sober stories of crime and political injustices.