The Operation of Collage

The Operation of Collage|The Operation of Collage

Simultaneous exhibitions link the cosmic with the commonplace

Enter Pavel Zoubok Gallery and you enter a vision committed to the many manifestations of collage. A method begun in force early in the 20th century, it easily serves as prescient forebearer of our current digital surf. And while some might

favor the clean streaming of media, Zoubok’s is a world of physical construction.

Work by Geoffrey Hendricks and Berty Skuber can now be found at the gallery. Mounting simultaneous solo exhibitions is a common strategy of Zoubok’s program, a kind of collage in itself. The result is a rich density of meanings, some made

by curatorial intention, some by chance, all gained by relationship of the parts to the whole––the operation of collage.

In “Continued Sky Dialogues” Hendricks, a founding member and high priest of Fluxus, presents 10 works that update his long time engagement with the space presumably above our heads. Guided by the inclusion of his sky watercolors, laced throughout many of the two and three-dimensional assemblages, the literal notion of sky is offered generously.

“Sky/Slate Wall #8”(2006) is a grid of these gentle paintings arranged in a syncopated pattern amidst roofing slate from the artist’s 19th century townhouse on Greenwich Street. Many moons emerge from between the tar stained tiles, waxing, waning, and full. Dark-edged clouds bleed; lighter hues reveal that moment when day and night mingle at a dawn, or dusk sighting of the moon. Time passes above, while below we enjoy this intimate invitation, as if we are lying together on the floor of a poorly patched roof, gazing into the heavens.

In “NOTHING (2/2 stones for Ray Johnson)” from 1997, Hendricks has a stone from the site of Ray Johnson’s drowning engraved with the title word, “Nothing.” Again from the ground, we mark the location of heaven, if there is one. Once past the initial Western allusion to afterlife, we are met with the power of this material koan. With the casual confidence of wisdom, Hendricks invites us through a material gate into the cosmic bristle of the everyday.

For Berty Skuber, the stuff of the everyday is a spectacular adventure born out by the accumulation of equally intimate origins. But rather than call up perceptual expanses, Skuber conjures her adventures from the linings of our second skins.

In “Labels,” Skuber presents 29 works, near equally divided between mixed media work on paper, dazzling collaged clothing labels on kerchiefs, and small jazzy after-drawings of the latter.

The label collages are clearly the strong suit of the bunch. Modest in scale, these tiny quilt-like paintings swim in a great matrix of associations. Grounded historically to the fabric collages of Ann Ryan, Skuber’s label collages lead quickly to multiple associations.

Functioning all at once as concrete poetry and high modernist painting, they retain a lingering memory of the original source, both garment and the body within. Each found label is an amazing feat of mechanical craft, bearing brilliant color, typography and illustration. Scanning the surface, looking for recognizable labels, I quickly realize that I don’t shop enough. Surely that is an extra layer of referential joy for the fashionistas among us.