Book Review: Collage: Contemporary artists hunt and gather, cut and paste, mash up and transform

Collage: Contemporary artists hunt and gather, cut and paste, mash up and transform by Danielle Krysa. (2014). San Francisco: Chronicle Books. ISBN 978-1-452-12480-3

What a cool idea!

Danielle Krysa, author of The Jealous Curator, decided to give the same photograph to 30 contemporary artists (31, including herself) with the instruction to make a completely unique piece of art using some or all of the elements included in the photograph.

Krysa writes:

Nothing makes a collagist happier than digging through a box of images or a stack of books until we uncover that perfect image--the kind of image that stops the heart, just for a second, because of the amazing creative potential it holds. The transformation is one of the best things about collage. The artist gets to finish telling, in a completely new way, a story that was started by someone else. (p. 10)
 Left: Mustache Master (2013) by Danielle Krysa; Right: The Challenge. Bill & Dan (1958) by Jack Cumming

Left: Mustache Master (2013) by Danielle Krysa; Right: The Challenge. Bill & Dan (1958) by Jack Cumming

This book provides a bit of magic with each page turn. Each artists' section begins with a brief narrative that gives insight into his or her artistic process. A sampling of the artists' works are also included along with the assigned piece that visually demonstrate the vast array of techniques, colors, and compositions available to collage artists today.

 Left: McJunkin's Theory and Gather it Up 5 (2013) by Holly Chastain; Right: The 3rd Grade Suitors of Jennie May White (2013) by Holly Chastain

Left: McJunkin's Theory and Gather it Up 5 (2013) by Holly Chastain; Right: The 3rd Grade Suitors of Jennie May White (2013) by Holly Chastain

The vibrancy and colors used by these contemporary artists are, as Anthony Zinonos says in his foreword, "nothing short of inspirational." (p. 9). I particularly love how each individual artist's personality is evident and that the so-called limitation of using one photograph actually resulted in limitless opportunities for discovery.

 Left: The Rest of his Family in the Living Room on the Other Side of the World and In her Corner of the World by Khanh H. Le; Right: When I Grow Up by Khanh H. Le

Left: The Rest of his Family in the Living Room on the Other Side of the World and In her Corner of the World by Khanh H. Le; Right: When I Grow Up by Khanh H. Le

I found some new favorite collage artists here and appreciate the joyous silliness in some pieces and the somber notes in others. Whether their work is representational or abstract, simplistic or complex, these artists give the reader something new and wonderful and surprising to discover at each viewing.

 

 Left: Upside Down Gardener (2011) and Communication Breakdown (2011) by Andrea D'Aquino; Right: Death to the Mustache (2013) by Andrea D'Aquino

Left: Upside Down Gardener (2011) and Communication Breakdown (2011) by Andrea D'Aquino; Right: Death to the Mustache (2013) by Andrea D'Aquino

Krysa writes: For anyone who has ever looked at the blank page and found it just too darn perfect and intimidating--collage is a blessing. Starting with something and building on it is a chance to remake stories, to create art out of something rather than nothing, to embrace whimsy and humor and pastiche. (p. 11)

I say for anyone who needs or wants a visual shot of inspiration, positive energy, and beauty, grab this book and open it to any page. Of late, I generally opt to go to my local public library instead of purchasing books, but this is definitely one I would want on my book shelves to reach for over and over again.

If you read this book, please let me know what you think!

Cheers!--Janyce

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