Under Construction: Collage from the Mint

For more than a century, artists have used collage to show how the usual order has been disrupted, recombining basic elements to create a new form, tell a new story, or communicate a new message. This traveling exhibition, organized by The Mint Museum in 2019, explores artists’ wide range of approaches to collage, using everything from traditional paper to melted plastic, currency to digital effects. 

Under Construction: Collage from the Mint title wall and entry wayThe Mint Museum

In the process of organizing this exhibition, The Mint Museum mined its permanent collections to explore the wide range of approaches that artists have taken using this technique. Collage usually lays bare the process of creation, allowing viewers to see how the artist has disrupted the usual order of the way that things are represented. Collage’s ability to surprise, delight, and provoke is a large part of its appeal and has driven artists to explore its possibilities for more than a century. Today, artists continue to push its boundaries.

Autobiography: East/West (Gardens) by Pindell, HowardenaThe Mint Museum

Howardena Pindell experimented with various forms of collage throughout her career, from her provocative works made up of hole punches in the 1970s to the dynamic curving forms of her “Autobiography” series from the early 1980s, which includes The Mint Museum’s East/West (Gardens). The “East/West” works in this series use postcards collected during her global travels. Pindell would reconfigure images from places she visited into compositions that recall flashes of memories, perhaps echoing the way the brain pieces together and processes information.

Gardens were sources of inspiration and solace to Pindell when she encountered racism and prejudice during a trip to Japan. “What nourished me and gave me energy,” she wrote, “was the extraordinary beauty I found in the traditional Japanese way of organizing space, images, and color, and the brief refuge of peace found in the Japanese gardens resplendent with the changes of the seasons.”

Composition around Violet by Sam GilliamThe Mint Museum

Sam Gilliam rose to prominence in the 1960s for his innovative use of stained canvases, which were hung loosely upon the wall, not mounted on stretchers and framed in the traditional sense. In works from the 1980s, including Composition Around Violet, seen here, Gilliam returned to stretched canvases but departed from traditional rectangular forms, as seen in this work, with its notched corners and rounded edges. Here, he layered a wide range of different colored canvas fragments—each with its own distinctive palette, texture, and shape—to create a dynamic, colorful composition.

Gilliam added the small panel in the lower right-hand corner when he was visiting Charlotte, N.C. to work on his installation The Illustrious Kites Made in Boxing Styles at Mint Museum Randolph in 2004.

How to Mine the Past by van Bork, FeliciaThe Mint Museum

How to Mine the Past is part of a series by Felicia van Bork in which each work’s title starts with the phrase “How to.” This statement prompts the viewer to imagine how the title relates to the work’s subject matter and question how the artist is using color, form, and composition to approach the topic at hand. In How to Mine the Past, two towering forms in the foreground suggest factories: the one on the left active, belching smoke, the one on the right perhaps in a state of disuse.

To create her collaged works, van Bork begins by making monotype prints which are then cut and torn apart and re-combined. She says she deliberately engages in this process to “break down attachment and preciousness.”

Lost in Steps (GreenPepperPowderscape) by Loris CecchiniThe Mint Museum

To create the series Lost in Steps belongs to, Cecchini photographed people on the streets and then digitally inserted (or “collaged”) them into tabletop landscapes that he created and photographed in his studio. In doing so, he distorts both scale and reality in order to create fantastical new worlds. Here, the man and his child seem to be striding through a magical landscape of bulbous green forms—in reality, enlarged peppercorns and soap bubbles laid out upon a table in the artist’s studio. The bubbled Plexiglas in front of the photograph adds another layer of complexity to the image.

Untitled by Kristina RogersThe Mint Museum

Kristina Rogers brought a creative and inventive spirit to her photographic work, mixing media, experimenting with photographic processes, and combining aspects of her own biography with subjects that touch on art history, history, religion, and mythology. Here, she has layered and re-photographed negatives to create a new, complex image, and then affixed objects (including small bits of other photographs, small uncut photographs, and stamps) to its surface as well.
Many of Rogers’ collages relate to her personal history but also suggest more universal themes. This one, for example, features a stamp from Germany (where her family was from) and the image of a mother and daughter.

Charlotte's Charlotte (2009) by Ken AptekarThe Mint Museum

“Using the history of art as my playground, I toy with paintings from the past, and I connect them to the present,” says artist Ken Aptekar. His Charlotte’s Charlotte references Mint Museum Randolph’s 1772 coronation portrait of Queen Charlotte by Allan Ramsay. By appropriating Ramsay’s imagery and adding his own text on sandblasted panels that hover above the surface of repainted details excerpted from the original painting, Aptekar initiates a dialogue between his work, Ramsay’s painting, and the viewer.

Charlotte's Charlotte by Ken AptekarThe Mint Museum

Before creating Charlotte’s Charlotte, Aptekar met with diverse groups within the local community to gain a better understanding of what Queen Charlotte means to Charlotteans. Words and phrases such as “BLACK WHITE OTHER” and “IMMIGRANT” reflect the distinct voices of the Charlotte community and function as a means of eliciting a variety of interpretations. With these texts overlaying the paintings, Aptekar intentionally addresses the issue of Queen Charlotte’s race (she was of North African, Portuguese, and German descent) and invites us to compare the implications of ethnic identity at the time of Ramsay’s portrait, and the many meanings this may have for contemporary viewers.

Ghost Orchid Plastic NebulaThe Mint Museum

Sheila Gallagher’s work is made up of discarded plastic objects that she lays out in a composition on baking sheets and then melts together, finding beauty in things we typically cast away.

Ghost Orchid Plastic NebulaThe Mint Museum

Ghost Orchid Plastic Nebula is inspired by both the psychedelic ‘flower power’ aesthetic of the 1960s, as well as ‘science’ photos of space and other natural phenomena,” says Gallagher. “The composition recalls a starburst or nebula, the cloud of dust thrown out by the explosion of a dying star, bursting with plant imagery. Many of the flora, like the fantastical ghost orchid which is found throughout the painting, are endangered or extinct in the wild, their natural habitats threatened by human impact.”

AMERIKA IX by Tim RollinsThe Mint Museum

Beginning as a teacher in the South Bronx in 1981, Tim Rollins set out to combine art-making with learning. This became the foundation for Kids of Survival, K.O.S., a group of student-artists Rollins formed a collaborative team with. Rollins and K.O.S. often compose their paintings on pages from books, usually classical texts of European art and literature. Amerika IX is part of a series based on Franz Kafka’s book Amerika, whose pages are collaged together and used as a canvas.

The imagery of golden horns that emerged in this work—created by a group of students Rollins worked with in Charlotte—derives from the text of the book. Rollins asked the students: “If you could be a golden instrument, if you could play a song of your freedom and dignity and your future and everything you feel about Amerika and this country, what would your horn look like?” Amerika IX is their collective response to this question.

Love Canal #2 by Hayashi, MasumiThe Mint Museum

Dr. Masumi Hayashi created approximately 200 panoramic photo-collages like this one, by taking images on a rotating tripod in successive rings. She then assembled the prints into one panoramic composition. The subjects of her work included decidedly non-scenic places, such as Japanese internment camps, post-industrial landscapes, abandoned prisons, and—in the deceptively-titled Love Canal #2—EPA superfund sites.

No. 9, A Force of Small, Line No. 2 by Griffin, KojoThe Mint Museum

Kojo Griffin’s No. 9, A Force of Small, Line No. 2 takes its name and approach from I Ching hexagrams, which look at the interconnectivity of ideas and states of being. Griffin paints psychological portraits, drawn from his childhood experiences, emotions and relationships. Here, he uses the blue central figure to represent the self. A network of cogs and gears overlays and connects the many different themes and ideas of the piece. Humanity’s underlying universality may be symbolized by the DNA helices, while the turtles embody the quiet, strong force of patience. Griffin’s parable reflects upon the importance of patience, openness, and strength in overcoming difficulties.

Although at first glance this work seems to be solely a painting, if you look closely you’ll see that both the blue central figure and the quizzical turtles are, in fact, collaged into the composition, where they are surrounded by various painted, stamped, and drawn imagery.

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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