Treasures, Souvenirs, Memories

August 28, 2014


Robert Kushner
-Treasures, Souvenirs, Memories-
New Collages

Yoshiaki Inoue Gallery, Osaka, Japan

Wednesday, October 1  -  Saturday, October 25, 2014

 Artist Talk: Friday, October 24, 5-6pm. Reception to follow.  

Treasures, Souvenirs, Memories

One of the claims made for collage when it was first introduced by the Cubist painters in 1912 was that it rooted the art works firmly to their present time.  By simply reading the stories in the newspaper glued to the canvas, you could know what the news of the world was at the exact moment in time when the collage was made. Since then collage has gone in so many unpredictable directions scooping up realms of both meaning and disjuncture by Dada, Surrealist and Pop artists among others.  But in my personal hierarchy of great collagists,  I love to picture Kurt Schwitters strolling the streets of Hannover  picking up odd scraps of discarded paper and then weaving them into his transcendent abstract compositions.  Or American artist Anne Ryan taking us to silent, still realms with her unique assemblages of paper and cloth. Or Lenore Tawney, creator of visionary poetry through collage,  is often looking over my shoulder, even so far as my having inherited pages from some of her favorite 18th Century books. In many ways I am trying to do the opposite of the Cubists: instead of tying my pieces to one point in time, I want to make them as diffused and  confusing as possible. I want the viewer to time travel as broadly as possible. And so I include papers from as many languages, cultures, times, and places as I can which become a part of the content of the work.  In all likelihood  no one individual could  read all the languages in each collage. Instead of concrete cognition we arrive at a mist of unknowing.

At the beginning of this series, I wanted the texts and images to be neutral. I was not very concerned with exact content. Rather I wanted their age and exoticism of the papers to create a kind of nostalgic ambiance, not to evoke any one time in particular, but to connote “other”.  Gradually, I  have come to be more autobiographical with the materials. I have started to include pieces of ephemera that meant something to me, that marked significant places or events alongside found texts the content of which I had no grasp. In “Columbine” (pictured above),  I combined the entry ticket to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the ticket for Alvar Aalto’s Experimental House outside of Helsinki, a scrap from a 1902 edition of the Osaka Yomiuri Shinbun, saved from the inside of a Japanese screen that I had dissected, along with another piece of paper announcing:  “Treasures, Souvenirs, Memories”.

I enjoy juxtaposing illustrations and diagrams from the 1914 Encyclopedia Britannica, postage stamps that I saved as a teen ager, but never got around to pasting into my stamp album, pages from 19th Century lady’s magazines, dictionaries, music, Japanese woodblock books.

One Arabic text  is a handwritten copy of an old  treatise entitled “Useful Information”.  While this book about navigation must have contained masses of essential and practical knowledge  for  15th Century sailors, it is probably pretty irrelevant to today’s world even if we could read the Medieval Arabic. In fact, nearly all these precious pieces of paper are slightly extraneous in one way or another. Some are in languages most of us cannot read. Some are popular songs that will rarely be sung again. There are currencies no longer in use. Legal documents from countries that no longer exist. Or century old diagrams of technological advances that today read as quaint.  In the end each scrap is beautiful to me.  These diverse facts become a sea of untold and irrecoverable stories upon which a single flower hovers.

Robert Kushner, August 2014

Yoshiaki Inoue Gallery
2F 3F Shinsaibashi Inoue Bldg.,
1-3-10 Shinsaibashi-suji, Chuo-ku, Osaka 542-0085 JAPAN
Gallery hours : 11:00 – 19:00.  Closed on Sunday and public holidays.
Tel. +81(0)6-6245-5347
Fax. +81(0)6-6252-0402


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