Book Review: Cut & Paste: 21st Century Collage by Richard Brereton with Caroline Roberts

Last September, Laurence King published an intriguing book about collage aptly named Cut & Paste. Put together by Richard Brereton with Caroline Roberts, this publication presents over 250 images from more than 40 contemporary artists. As is usually the case with Laurence King Publishing, the book as an object really stands out as the traditional binding has been paired with hard cardboard to produce an interesting multi layered result. On the cover, French illustrator and artist Serge Bloch’s image of a dog with a light socket head is simple but surprisingly effective.

Inside, the foreword quickly sets the tone. Within a few succinct paragraphs, Brereton defines and contextualizes collage through a personal selection of its attributes, which seem to have acted as guidelines in the artists’ selection. He places traditional practice as a refuge to comment on our age where digital imagery is more present than ever. Brereton strongly believes in collage’s ability to confront the viewer and provoke reflection, as he states: “the fusion of disparate and juxtaposed assemblage images provokes questions, ambiguous questions that we may not be able to answer.”

As the pages are flipped, that last thought brings cohesion to this eclectic selection of artists. The book may present a variety of different practices but what the propositions all have in common is to avoid the path of literality. They suggest, they defy, they sometimes even grate. But above all, they oblige the reader to significant question action in a strangely consistent manner.
Of course, the best part is given to images. Three pages of collages for each artist, completed by a small paragraph giving hints about the artist’s process and sometimes minimal biographical information. Is this enough? Well, in some cases, I would have liked to have a few more lines to contextualize the work. In the end, that only creates more questions to answer.

Cut & Paste: 21st Century Collage
by Richard Brereton with Caroline Roberts
Laurence King Publishing, 2011, ISBN  978 1 85669 717 0