May 01, 2002

5 in Collage at Lori Bookstein
by Judith Collischan

Cubist-derived collage typically juxtaposes found materials and transforms them into works of art, and in so doing gives them renewed meaning—a fabrication from the artist's imagination. Although this show contained no surprises, it did demonstrate a range of possibilities within the genre. Among the oldest and most engaging pieces here was Joseph Stella's “Untitled” (ca. 1920-22), consisting of a wrinkled, torn, nondescript piece of black paper mounted on cream tones, with red-orange grounds that elevate the lowly scrap to esthetic prominence.

In a more traditional format, folded, tucked, and transparent planes move about the surface of Janet Malcolm's sensitive, incisive inventions consisting of snippets from old books and ledgers, published and private. In some instances a sheer overleaf or a decorative inner sheet adds a touch of translucency and/or pattern. Folds and edges provide directional thrust in Malcolm's nimbly animated work. Henry Rothman, too, uses torn and cut papers, sometimes printed with letters or words. These are presented in sophisticated formal arrangements that are sometimes coolly analytical and other times pictorially expressive.

Fanciful illusion also has its place in collage and is beautifully represented by Varujan Boghosian's “From an Italian Sketchbook” (1992), wherein images of clothed and nude female figures coincide along an arc of torn paper. A few printed words inserted on one side add another texture to that of the reproduced and drawn forms. In contrast to Boghosian's sensuality are Ken Kewley’s obsessive constructions of small pieces of colored paper, the most successful of which are the simpler abstractions. Where Boghosian emphasizes the subliminal, Kewley focuses on structure. The two capture the extremes of the emotive and cerebral qualities possible within the expressive genre of collage, a variety amply demonstrated in this small, poetic exhibition.