At Volta NY, Thomas and her partner Racquel Chevremont have assembled a group of artists exploring the ideology of cut-and-paste.
By Paul Laster
Collage matters right now—at least according to the Volta NY special exhibition curators, artist Mickalene Thomas and collector and consultant Racquel Chevremont. Charged with organizing a group exhibition for the curated section of the Armory Show’s sister fair this year, the duo decided to focus on cut-and-paste.
But why does an art fair need an additional show when it already has 85 booths? “Volta NY began as a curated art fair back in 2008, when we had only forty exhibitors,” Volta artistic director Amanda Coulson told GARAGE. “As it became a more traditional, sprawling fair, I wanted to bring back the idea of seeing works within a context. Rather than having a hundred booths, I carved out a space at the center of the fair where we could have a show and people could think about contemporary art in a different way.”
Thomas and Chevremont’s exhibition, The Aesthetics of Matter, presents eight emerging artists—four women and four men, all born after 1980—who approach the medium of collage using a range of technical means, including painting, sculpture, photography, video, and printed matter. It’s an age-old genre, but this group of thirty-something artists offers some surprising interventions.
Recent Yale grad Tomashi Jackson takes Josef Albers’s 1963 analytical text Interaction of Color and adds court documents from civil right cases to produce abstract assemblages that layer paint and found materials. Contrastingly, New York-based David Shrobe combines paint and discarded objects to create semi-realistic portraits with a surreal twist. Kennedy Yanko also makes hybrid work, intermingling painting with sculpture by blending soft skeins of poured paint with tough bits of marble, scrap metal, and other industrial materials, while artist and writer Kameelah Janan Rasheed uses copy machines and digital processing to make architecturally scaled collages in which text meets eccentric imagery.
Turning to photography, Devin N. Morris stages otherworldly shoots with models and objects in heavily draped, theatrical settings to explore racial and sexual identity, while Christie Neptune engages similar themes in her narrative videos and studio snaps. Her video She Fell From Normalcy centers on a sci-fi-style scenario in which two black women perform slow movements in a sterile white environment. An enigmatic photo installation, Unpacking Sameness, juxtaposes a seated Neptune with symbolic objects in her studio.
El Paso-born artist Troy Michie mixes his own photographs and magazine cutouts with bits of clothing, paper, and paint in collages that abstract fragments of bodies. Referencing histories of camouflage, Pachuco culture, and LA’s Zoot Suit Riots of 1943, Michie uses her medium to examine the intractability of otherness. Didier William, from Port-au-Prince, employs a variety of graphic techniques, including woodcarving, to create patterned works inspired by the history of the Haitian Revolution.
In an appropriately collage-like preview video for the show, Thomas declares the exhibition to be about “looking at artists that explore the ideology of collage.” Chevermont adds, “but not in the literal sense of collage, it was more about collaging of the ideas, of bringing from different backgrounds and different lives and in different mediums.”
“In all of these iterations and various disciplines, there is a form of collage that usually comes out of some type social or political turmoil,” Thomas continues. “It’s especially important right now because in any social or political time, the power of what comes out is the art, right? Art changes lives. That’s why it’s important for these artists to get their work out there, into the world.”