April 19: Collage

#19April 19: How much fun is collage? When cutting and assembling readymade images we become acutely aware of how close visual expression is to writing and speaking where we join words to make meaning — as William S. Burroughs said, “All writing is in fact cut-ups. A collage of words read heard overheard. What else?”

Take Pablo Picasso‘s aphorism “Art is theft” (whether he actually said it hardly matters—he did it!) and you’re on to the added thrill of this act. Worried about copyright? Think of the DJ and there’s the antidote you need. In fact think of a particular DJ; Milen Till. He joins Matthieu Bourel, Dennis Busch and Anthony Gerace, tonight for the vernissage and opening reception 6pm tonight at the Curve Pop-Up Gallery at Torstraße 138 in Berlin for the group exhibition Contemporary Collage.

Matthieu Bourel (2013) Colourful Diva
Matthieu Bourel (2017) Incursive, handmade collage, around 80 layers, 29x42cm

You may already have encountered the wit of Matthieu Bourel (*1976) and the uncanny anatomy that he reveals beneath the incisions he makes in the human visage.

In calling his imagery ‘data-ism’ he draws on the tradition of collage as received from Dada, from a century ago, but with a new twist that refers to the contemporary glut of imagery, and to images as data, which they have become in the digital age

We live in an era full of information everywhere. A constant flow. Internet, phones, television. Commercials in the streets. The term data-ism is for me a way to digest all of this, in an artistic way.

His collages are a mixture of hand-cutting and digital cut-and-paste, and some of the manual works incorporate tens of layers, as in Incursive (right), presented in a block-like deep frame, making it sculptural. It’s an image from a series that taps into our deep-seated horror vacui.

Matthieu Bourel (2014) Assortative Homogamie

The complexity of swapping and layering that goes on in an image like Bourel’s Assortative Homogamie is simplified in Milen Till’s Kiss Cuts and likewise his Chimeric Cuts being shown at Curve. He employs a device with which we are already familiar from childhood books of ‘heads and tails’, and from the Dada game of ‘Exquisite Corpse’. It is the most basic form of collage involving one cut being made to each of two images so that when joined to each other their forms, in this case faces, connect.

MILEN TILL René Magritte x Man Ray, 2016 14,8 x 21 cm
Milen Till (2016) René Magritte x Man Ray from the series Kiss Cuts
Milen Till (2017) Constantin Brancusi x André Cadere

Drawing on his facility and powers of recall as a DJ and lover of hip-hop, Till samples art history in Kiss Cuts. In an exercise that would require a prodigious memory-bank of art images, he couples them in a passionate embrace of the works of significant artists. Digital adjustments of scale make the mating of these pictures perfect. The oscular embrace reaches across decades, genres and styles.

Above, two surrealist works meet; René Magritte‘s Lovers II (1928) and one of Man Ray‘s earliest rayograms, his The Kiss (1922), itself a double-exposed montage, a photogram of faces (that of Kiki de Montparnasse and his own) and their two hands. Till melds histories and techniques: painting rushes to embrace photography, sculpture kisses itself, in tongues that only the two mouths kissing can speak and understand; always two sides to every story.

MILEN TILL Jürgen Teller x Bettina Rheims, 2016 14,8 x 21 cm
Milen Till (2016) Jürgen Teller x Bettina Rheims, 14.8 x 21 cm

His coupling of commercial images by Jürgen Teller and Bettina Rheims is almost seamless, but becomes ironic as B Grade rapper and hardened showgirl are forced into a breathless embrace. 

Milen studied at the Academy of Visual Arts in Munich under the German contemporary artist Gregor Hildebrandt (*1974) whose own work references music, film, literature and also art history in a complex montage for which he employs cassette tape as a masking medium.

Basquiat_x_DaVinci Milen-Till
Milen Till (2017) Jean-Michel Basquiat x Leonardo Da Vinci

Till’s series Chimeric Cuts refers to the monster of Greek mythology with a lion’s head, goat’s body, and a dragon’s tail. His pairing of the titans (and titanides) of art takes place at eye level, in a perfect mix, a musical segue.

Warhol_x_Kahlo Milen-Till
Milen Till (2017) Warhol x Kahlo

This suture at the point of the gaze introduces an oscillating gestalt, subjecting the viewer to a dizzying and schizophrenic flipping between two art personalities.

Ono_x_Abramovic Milen-Till
Milen Till (2017) Ono x Abramovic

Collage is by nature transgressive as it toys with plagiarism and defies copyright, but liberating, in the moment that it releases new art from old.

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