Book Review: The Age of Collage

Princess Headcut by Matthieu Bourel

The Age of Collage
edited by Dennis Busch, Robert Klanten, Hendrik Hellige

review by Benoit Depelteau

When German publisher Gestalten announced this book, a few months before its August 2013 release, I immediately thought of Cutting Edges, the acclaimed collage publication they had launched a few years back. Upon reception of the object, I couldn’t help it, I had to place them together on a table. Because Gestalten’s books, with their generous dimensions, meticulous binding, density and weight, are impressive objects.

While the two books share similarities, general layout and comparable size, they also function as complements. Cutting Edges was made as the continuity of two exhibitions curated by New York artist James Gallagher. Therefore, Gallagher’s own preoccupations as a collage artist, mainly the often distorted representation of the human body, are noticeable and assumed in the selection.

Without Gallagher on board this time, the remaining elements of the editing team approach The Age of Collage in a wider, general sense. They still present many images of modified human figures, a tendency whose influence has grown in recent collage practice, but also explore in other relevant directions.

One of them, well covered in the book, is the use of geometrical patterns to alter an image. Admirably demonstrated by Eva Eun-Sil Han, Cur3es or Jordan Clark, this process is used with portraits, landscapes and even through abstraction. At its best when added to organic base images, this way of working amplifies the reconstruction aspect of collage.

Another well-documented tendency is the creation of enigmatic landscapes, obtained by the juxtaposition of nature photographs with ethereal, psychedelic or stellar images. Somewhere between dreamy and dystopian, these panoramas underlie both contemplation and questioning.

The editors also take note of the growing presence of unusual materials in recent practice. Readers will have the opportunity to view examples of work that includes baseball cards, buttons, thread, puzzle pieces and sausages, materials rarely associated with contemporary collage.

Overall, the book aptly captures the vitality and diversity of recent fine art collage and identifies the hard tendencies seen in today’s practice. The body of work presented is surprisingly coherent and suggests questions about identity. It could be the sign of a global social malaise or, most likely, a metaphor of the language of collage being slowly constructed.

This review appeared in Issue Seven of Kolaj Magazine. PURCHASE ISSUE SEVEN or SUBSCRIBE.

The Age of Collage: Contemporary Collage in Modern Art
Edited by Dennis Busch, Robert Klanten, and Hendrik Hellige
full colour, hard cover
11.8”x9.4”, 288 pages, $58.00
ISBN: 978-3-89955-483-0
Gestalten, Berlin, Germany, 2013

Princess Headcut
by Matthieu Bourel
from The Age of Collage ©Gestalten 2013