Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Collage Education:
Vik Muniz & Eric Carle at the High Museum

On display at the High Museum in Atlanta's Woodruff Arts Center are works by photographer Vik Muniz and by children's book author Eric Carle.  Different as they are, they both compose their pictures by collage.  The images are interesting in themselves, but we are moved to excitement, laughter, and even awe by our perception of the artists' processes.

Muniz works with images already familiar to us.  At the High, we see photographs of Dracula and Frankenstein that, upon closer look, resolve into slimy fish eggs arranged on Muniz's white light-table.  A movie star is made of diamonds.  Giant postcard images of Paris and New York, at closer look, are composed from spliced bits of postcards and ads.  Portraits of Che and of Muniz himself turn out to be photographs of junk painstakingly arranged on the vast white floor of a studio, and we get to see a rapid-motion video of the artist making the pieces.

It's funny and touching that the familiar portrait of the youngest Civil War soldier is composed of fallen toy soldiers.  Here are the photos I made at the High, approaching a few feet closer with each shot:

[I contacted for permission to use these photos]

Muniz made me laugh out loud in a couple of works that don't fit the pattern.  One is a series of photos of New York skyline Muniz made with help from skywriting pilots, who "drew" fluffy cartoon clouds over the city.  The other is Muniz's replica of a Matchbox car, rendered the size of an actual Ford Mustang, with shallow plastic interior, chipped paint, solid grille, and plastic tires. I squatted on the floor to see if he'd printed the "made in Japan" lettering on the undercarriage, and there it was, letters three inches deep in relief.

Eric Carle has long worked with tissue paper, glue, and acrylic paint to construct his classic book The Very Hungry Caterpillar and tales about a pugnacious lady bug, and about a boy named Jack challenged to gather all the ingredients for pancakes himself - from harvesting the wheat to milking the cow for butter. "City Lights," an arts program on Atlanta's NPR station WABE, told how Carle's German parents, homesick in America, emigrated back to Germany in 1935.  A high school art teacher there took the risk of showing young Eric his bottom-drawer collection of modernist art that Nazis called "degenerate," and Carle says he was "blinded by beauty" of bright colors and compositions of abstract shapes.  My friend Susan and I especially enjoyed perceiving how he created a 3D effect with some blue horses he made, superimposing blue haunches on blue torso.

I reflected on an earlier display of collage artists at the High in 2011, "Collage Credit."

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