When I was packing to move to my new place I threw away a lot of artwork. It was stuff I’d been lugging around for no discernible reason for decades. It felt good to be rid of it. But now, digging through my flatfile and sketchbooks, I see that there is still a lot of old stuff taking up space. I didn’t have the heart to part with it, though there’s little chance anyone will ever want it. More fodder for the scrap heap for whoever’s unfortunate enough to dig through my belongings after I’ve checked out.
I’ve been reading Luc Sante’s forthcoming book (which you all should order immediately) in which he mentions his recent return to the art of collage. it was something he did a lot of in the 70s and 80s but had abandoned until the last couple years. He’s gotten so into it that he put up a (virtual) exhibition at a gallery. The idea of a show of art made of scraps of ancient printed ephemera only viewable via digital screen is some kind of irony/sad commentary business my brain isn’t big enough to handle. But trying an old medium again after a long break was very attractive.
Stan Klein, the proprietor of Firecat Projects, gave me a huge roll of heavy paper which once belonged to the minimalist painter Kenneth Noland. Stan was his assistant during his last years. The paper was too big to tape to a drawing board, so I taped it to the wall. It hung there for a week or so, the corners occasionally pulling the masking tape off the wall, while I decided what to do with it. I bought some acrylics, thinking of attempting a painting of what I could see looking to the left and right when up at the wall, but the thought of stitching the two views into one gave me a headache. So I dug through the flatfile.
I took out some figure sketches from my stint going to life-drawing classes a couple years ago. I chose a couple quick ones and taped them to the paper on the wall. I cut out a part of one body, a face of another, then started adding faded color construction paper, then took a marker and scribbled over some of the places where these fragments met.
I “finished” the big one over a couple weeks and hung it on a different wall. It was big enough that this necessitated moving some furniture around. now when I come through my front door it’s the first thing I see. Don’t know what to make of it yet, but it was fun to do, so I kept going.
I have no big ambition for this new thing. The trouble with taking up something late in the game is an awareness of that thing’s long history. Kurt Schwitters, Hannah Hoch, Romare Bearden, the list goes on and on. It’s best not to think of it too much, otherwise it would be paralyzing. For now I’m happy to rip up old pictures and glue them together, then paint or draw over the seams. It reactivates old, unused work and keeps me off balance. The worst thing an artist can do is make work they know how to make; there are machines which do that much quicker and better. The thing is to make yourself feel like a beginner. Collage definitely does that for me.
It’s a relief not my own work for a change. The results may be crap, but at least it’s not stale old crap.
—First night of Night Music went well. I’ll be back sketching at night two. You’re welcome to come too. A few tickets left last time I checked.
—A few more jazz heroes for my show.
—This is Wallace. He lives in Hyde Park.