Locks Gallery is pleased to announce Out of the Fragments, an exhibition of collages by Louise Nevelson (1899–1988), Robert Motherwell (1915–1991), and Edna Andrade (1917–2008).
At the end of World War I in 1919, Kurt Schwitters wrote: “New things had to be made out of the fragments.” With this sentiment in mind, artists such as Schwitters, Picasso, Matisse and Hannah Höch made collage the defining medium of the twentieth century, using fragmented and unconventional materials to reassemble the reality of a rapidly changing society.
This exhibition brings together collages spanning the 1960s through the 1980s by Post-War artists Nevelson, Motherwell and Andrade. This collection speaks to the medium’s unique possibilities for invention and expression, as well as the intimacy and immediacy it conveys. These works also serve as companions to each of the artists’ more widely-known bodies of work in sculpture and painting, and demonstrate how collage allowed them to expand the parameters of their art and explore a wider range of material and formal elements.
Andrade’s collages reflect her formalist approach to abstraction, inspired by European modernists such as Josef Albers and Hans Hoffman. Andrade’s collages are vibrant celebrations of color and design. Using torn and arranged pieces of brightly hued painted and handmade paper, she created intricate, mosaic-like compositions. Andrade said that her work “intends to celebrate the order and energy inherent in natural structures,” and uses “a few basic themes of growth” to generate “a rich variety of forms.” While many of her paintings employ a hard-edged, precise geometry, Andrade’s collages inhabit a looser, rhythmic dance of color and space, as in works like Sunrise (1962), which echo the work of contemporaries such as Sonia Delaunay and Alma Thomas.
Nevelson’s collages possess a moody interiority and utilize recognizable materials from her daily life—cardboard from cigarette boxes, fabric scraps from quilts and clothing, pocket lint and foil wrappers. This body of work was rarely shown during her lifetime and it offers an intimate view into her artistic practice, as well as a more expansive assessment of Nevelson’s sensitivity to surface, color and form. Like her painted wood installations, these collages include materials Nevelson collected from her daily scavenging walks around a changing lower Manhattan, where historic buildings were routinely being torn down. She saw the act of collage as “join[ing] the shattered world, creating a new harmony.” In these works, stacked scraps of fabric, wood, cardboard, paper, corroded metals and industrial offcuts produce low-relief excavations. Black Krylon spray paint, mat board and plywood mounting further the tension between shadow and light and highlight Nevelson’s inscrutable tendencies. These collages also retain the totemic quality found in her larger works, playing with texture and scale to suggest monumentality.
Collage was Motherwell’s main medium at the beginning of his career in the 1940s and 1950s, and continued to be part of his daily practice as an artist. Critic Holland Cotter believed that Motherwell “did his best — his freest, most vital, least doctrinaire — work in collage.” Motherwell’s collages are where his masterful use of bold, expressive color is on full display, alongside his explicit references to culture, embracing the diaristic nature of the medium. Cigarette and liquor packaging, advertisements and print materials are combined with striking painted color fields and a graphic sense of line and rhythm, which was heavily inspired by Matisse.
This exhibition provides an opportunity to see the diverse ways in which major twentieth century artists employed collage, and the conversations the medium prompts between artists’ personal and creative habits, and the wider cultural landscape that surrounded them.