• Collage: Selections

    On Construction

    I distinguish between composition and construction, with the first involving the arrangement of the parts each relative to the others and all to the whole, and the second the attachment of the parts one to another. In 1972, I abandoned the usual method of constructing a collage when I gave up gluing the separate pieces together in one mass. I could no longer bear the effects that followed gluing as regards a work's appearance and its durability. Surface edges lose integrity, taking on a pasted-down look; or these edges may curl at points where air bubbles or pockets invisibly flaw the adhesive film; or edges that run under a surface come in time to deform that surface by buckling it and imposing their own outlines upon it; or, if partial gluing is attempted instead, stress marks come prominently to mar the surfaces; and more, even to the eventual rupturing of the materials, given that the diverse elements expand and contract at different rates with thermal change. The glued collage is in actuality a field of conflicting forces that must tear itself apart eventually, if only from the continual change of temperature. Immersing the different elements in a polymer medium, a popular procedure, helps not at all: the evils prevail, and moreover the collage is now jelled behind a swath of acrylic gloss or deadening film.

    I wanted a work to remain very much the way I composed it and remain that way through time. Needed was a method that left the various elements essentially free while still attaching them together, ever so gently yet strongly. The solution turned on hinging the elements together, and for this I used tiny bits of almost gossamer-like Japanese paper for hinges and a conservationally tested acetate/ethylene copolymer as adhesive. Affixing these hinges is rather arduous when one must work blindly to get them under layered surfaces so that the crease of a hinge remains very tight without its inner surfaces becoming glued together. The trick was to work out special tools made from the finest gauge stainless steel to help get this done. Collages made in this way are not only structurally superior but they also have a special look — serene in their spaces, able to breathe, one might say, edges and surfaces integral to themselves.

    Construction thus is subtly compositional, having definite aesthetic effects. My method has forced me to attend closely to special textures and especially to the relief values of edges in my efforts to control curl and shadow as best I can. Shortly before I began to hinge collages, I described my mode of composition as that of "a painter who paints with paper." Today I could just as well say that my mode of construction is that of a sculptor working reliefs in paper. Just look at Imix and White Passage, for example, or Merlot, Arkhe, and Catch as Catch Can, all shown among the collages from the interval 1976 to 1985.