"Regardless of the medium, whether it is in Eliot or Picasso or a TV thirtysecond
advertisement, I think collage is the twentieth century's greatest creative
innovation" -Robert Motherwell
Bernard Jacobson Gallery is proud to announce its forthcoming exhibition
Robert Motherwell: Collage, the most comprehensive exhibition of Motherwell's collages ever to be held. The exhibition will run from
5 June - 27 July, and will coincide with the Peggy Guggenheim Collection's upcoming exhibition Robert Motherwell: The Early Collages,
which opens concurrently with the Venice Biennale in late May. In acknowledgment of this revolutionary 20th century invention,
these two exhibitions survey its most important American practitioner.
In 1943 three young American painters, Jackson Pollock, William Baziotes and Robert Motherwell, were approached by Peggy
Guggenheim and asked to produce work for the first exhibition of collages in the United States, at her Art of This Century gallery
in New York. Motherwell was only in his 20s - the youngest of the three painters - but his powerful new experiments were
exhibited alongside the great European modernists including Picasso, Ernst, Miro, Braque, and Arp. As he recounts, "Pollock and I
didn't really know much about collage except that you pasted things on. We were both intimidated by the project, so we decided to
try it together." Pollock and Baziotes soon abandoned the form, but Motherwell discovered a passion and aptitude for the medium
which spurred him to continue with it throughout his career. As he says, "I felt a magical release. I took to it, as they say, as a duck
Motherwell's major innovation with the form is the torn paper edge - a technique that reflected his love of working with paper, and
his commitment to automatism. Further, he worked on a much larger scale than his European counterparts had attempted, and
Americanized the medium to reflect his views that "in Europe...people take it much more for granted that certain things are for
certain people. But in America, people believe everything is for everyone, including abstract art." To this end, Motherwell believed
collage to be "a necessary invention", in which "one has the whole world and human history as subject matter, juxtaposition
inconceivable before modern times."
While the upcoming Guggenheim show focuses on his 1940s collages, the exhibition at Bernard Jacobson Gallery presents over
thirty works from the 1950s up until 1991, the year of his death. In his 1960s collages, Motherwell incorporated "everyday"
fragments, echoing Schwitters' merz technique developed 40 years earlier. Collages such as Bowes & Bowes, Cambridge (1966), which
includes a torn mailing wrapper from the Cambridge booksellers, and La Cuisinière (1967), featuring a shopping bag from a Madison
Avenue kitchen supply store, are examples of this.
In the 1970s and 80s, Motherwell developed entire series of collages. The collage elements in these later works were often cut and
torn fragments of proofs of his own prints that he embellished with gestural brushstrokes and painted compositions, and are
demonstrative of his work with the torn edge. This technique of incorporating print fragments occurs in works such as French
Revolution Bicentennial No. 5 (1987), Irish Book (1989), and the haunting Night Dream (1988).
Other highlights from the exhibition include the earliest work from 1959, Sun and Sea; Collaged Wall VI (1986), which incorporates
sheet music from lifelong friend and composer Arthur Berger's Trio for Guitar, Violin and Piano (1972); U.S. Art, New York, NY
(1962), which Motherwell originally intended as being part of his Beside the Sea series before adding the collage element; and Open,
Bolton Landing (1969), which served as a model for his elegy to the sculptor David Smith, Open No. 121 (Bolton Landing Elegy) now in
the collection of the Tate.
Robert Motherwell continues the trajectory of modern European visionaries Picasso, Braque, Schwitters, and Matisse, and his
advancements with American collage are unrivalled. As Robert Hughes suggests, in making collage Motherwell became "the only
artist since Matisse in the fifties to alter significantly the syntax of this quintessentially modernist medium."