Los Angeles

“Collage-Artists in California”

Pasadena Museum of California Art (PMCA)

The exhibition, organized by Walter Hopps in conjunction with the Kurt Schwitters retrospective, features the work of three widely disparate artists. A fourth wall of the gallery is devoted to some fifty-two examples of collage, providing one defines that term in its broadest sense. Of the three given special prominence in the show, William Dole from the University of California at Santa Barbara is the closest to the aesthetics of Schwitters. His highly refined and subtly restrained compositions employ the carefully selected papers, the bits borrowed from typography and the fragments of the handwritten letter—all elements that Schwitters found—ordered in a manner that shows Dole is a master of space as used by both the Neoplasticists and the Suprematists. Like Schwitters, he may derive his title from letters in the composition, but more often the collages are descriptive of personal memories, sensitively and delicately handled, fostering contemplation—refreshing and rewarding. Robert Loberg from San Francisco combines the free style of action painting with large collages depending on the fragments of the blown-up photograph and the billboard. The scale and the over-all effect in contrast to that of Dole, points out the polarities that exist within Abstract Expressionism. Loberg’s paintings would have more lasting import and maturity however, if the unbridled vigor of both color and brush were tempered with a bit more of a conscious concern for the aesthetic which was always in the mind of Schwitters The more controversial works of George Herms from. Topanga Canyon fall into the classification of assemblages rather than collages although admittedly it is difficult to draw a sharp line of distinction between the two. To say that Herms’ pieces are used as part of his life would imply that they are related in character to Brauner’s Wolf-Table (1939) but the functionalism implicit in the latter does not exist in Herms’ assemblages with the exception perhaps of the Cross which is reportedly used as a personal shrine in his home. The others, if functional at all, seem to serve more the purpose of simple entertainment. Made from elements that run the full gamut of the discards of a meager society, they are more related to the cornstalk dolls that children of our rural culture have known. Many will ask if this is art. In terms of Duchamp, art is defined as anything man-made and the significance of the art of both Herms and of those included in the collection of fifty-two is the significance of the spirit of Duchamp that continues unabated in the art of this century. At its best it is a spirit full of inventive ingenuity, alive with sarcastic humor and earnestly provocative. Unfortunately, most of the examples in the collection are little more than mediocre. Although a number of outstanding artists of the area are represented, few are seen at their best. The selection does present the diversity, if not always the depth, current in the use of collage techniques.

Constance Perkins