• Multi-modes: Selections

    In the late nineties, I began pushing my use of diverse materials and media much beyond what had been my usual practice. Seriatim II, made in 1999, can serve as a fit example. It measures 34 1/4 x 94 1/2 inches and is made of paper, ink, perforated aluminum, stainless steel, sanding discs, black gesso on canvas, cardboard, mat board, and copier transparency film -- all mounted on five aluminum panels; also, the work juts out relieflike from the wall. Into what general category should such a work be placed? It is neither a collage nor a sculpture, nor a painting. Though elements from each of these art modes contribute to it as a whole, Seriatim II is something other. The same holds for many other works of mine made since then. Available category names (mixed-media, assemblage, combines) highlight basic operations. But mixing, assembling, combining, do not convey in any general sense how I arrive at such works, nor hint at what I consider a central necessity — the subordination of the parts to the integration of diverse modes and materials within a holistically coherent work of art.

    The exhibition catalogue of the Kremen retrospective at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University listed all works together, this without regard to category differentiation except for sculpture and for two special series. The many other catalogues of previous exhibits focused almost exclusively on collage though a few treated sculpture separately.

    My work has thus been publicly associated with collage and I’m generally thought of as being a “collagist.” That persists even though I have pushed the medium beyond conventional boundaries and, to such an extent, that today the term “collage” is no longer appropriate to much of what I make. This development began in the late eighties with the emergence within the body of my work of the various “Canto” series.

    Those typically are composed of a main panel, largely monochromatic, followed a short space below by an irregular line of small collages and other material arranged rhythmically. I generally refer to the latter by the Italian term “predella” which applies to the small-scale, narrative panels or scenes along the frame at the bottom of an altarpiece. Mine are neither narrative nor representational but, rather, complement the main panel although they could well stand alone. After about a decade and a half, my predella forms developed into the “Seriata;” the materials of one of these I’ve described above. In my studio now some dozen works-in-progress are of the kind that synthesize either two or three of the modes (collage, painting, sculpture). They demand their own category name. I call them Multi-modes, notwithstanding that grey areas and ambiguities persist.

    Irwin Kremen