Saying yes to everything
Curated by Corrina Peipon
November 15, 2014 —
December 20, 2014
Saying yes to everything will present collage works made between 1965 and the present. The exhibition includes nineteen artists who explore the conceptual and formal potential of collage.
Artists in the exhibition: Mike Cloud, Confetti Confidential, Meg Cranston, Al Hansen, Richard Hawkins, Robert Heinecken, Ray Johnson, David X. Levine, T. Kelly Mason, Gladys Nilsson, Erik Parker, Fay Ray, Amanda Ross-Ho, Kenny Scharf, Alexis Smith, Frances Stark, Stan VanDerBeek, Ray Yoshida, Brenna Youngblood
Collage is inherently adversarial to the traditions of art; it challenges aesthetic boundaries and questions collectively held notions of identity and taste. By inserting something "real" into the picture plane, the artist interrupts illusion with a burst of nonfiction. But by opening up to a broad field of images and sources—by saying yes to everything—artists effectively level the cultural field. Such promiscuity yields a productive ambivalence that can be read as a simultaneously celebratory and critical view on cultural production. Saying yes to everything presents works that display an earnest approach to the entire landscape of visual information and reflect the culture back on itself, walking the line between homage and critique, reverence and satire.
This exhibition presents collage as both a unifying and individuating strategy, bringing together artists who advance diverse styles and who propose a variety of positions. Saying yes to everything is intended to be historical in scope, underscoring the importance of collage over time and drawing out relationships between art made by three generations of artists working from the 1960s into the present. However, it is far from comprehensive. Instead, the exhibition is a loose constellation of works that share formal and thematic affinities. The porous boundaries of the exhibition are drawn around a handful of criteria:
The artists are all American, and all of the works were made after 1960. These guidelines allow for the show to look at a particular legacy of modernism within collage without telling the story of modernism itself as a preamble.
Collage is central to the artists' visual language; for artists like Ray Johnson and Alexis Smith, for instance, it is everything. Advancing collage as a medium in their overall practices, each of the artists demonstrates a commitment to collage over time.
All of the works incorporate found elements. The artists included here open their work up to images or texts that are in some way "extracurricular": bits and pieces that are generated in various elsewheres beyond the studio walls, by other artists, designers, or writers, known or unknown.
The artists in Saying yes to everything all reflect some element of the culture back on itself, occasionally on multiple levels at once. While artists like David X. Levine and Frances Stark use collage to both assert and question their own cultural biases, the ambivalence in works by T. Kelly Mason and Brenna Youngblood is perhaps less overt.
The works here assert formal innovations by deploying the accumulation, isolation, and repetition of materials in tandem with color, shape, language, presentation strategies, and mixed mediums to explore the formal potential of the collage technique while engaging a more or less measured form of cultural critique.
Saying yes to everything includes an evolving work room inhabited by Confetti Confidential. A group of artists and designers who meet regularly to make collages in a communal work environment, Confetti Confidential will have their weekly meetings at the gallery during the run of the exhibition. The group's ad hoc residency at the gallery highlights one aspect of collage as a process that is often engaged by artists and designers as a sort of "warm-up" exercise or visual thinking aloud that can yield surprising results. The habitual activity of these five practitioners suggests alternative ways of making art and raises questions about conventionally held notions about how art is made, displayed, and circulated.
The title of the exhibition comes from a brief statement written by Meg Cranston on the occasion of People for a Better Tomorrow, an exhibition she curated at the Sweeney Art Gallery, University of California, Riverside in 2006, which closes with the line: "Artists liberate to the degree they are optimists, to the degree they say yes to everything." Cranston's application of Nietzschean affirmation to the function of artists in the culture seems apt in an exhibition that seeks to point out a handful of instances in recent art where artists use collage to suggest possibilities. The adversarial nature of collage described at the outset of this text is not entirely derogatory. In fact, the act of removing an image from one context and planting it in another, the maneuver of placing two formerly separate images together on the same plane: these basic tenets of collage seem to encourage new ideas. By drawing the outside world into their work, these artists buffer the negation of the cut with the excitement of novelty.