A Century of Collage
Bernard Jacobson Gallery
by Jackie Wullschlager
Critic's Choice | Financial Times | Saturday 20 April 2013

Bruce McLean, Waiter Curator, 2012

As Tate's current Schwitters in Britain demonstrates in the case of a single visionary artist, collage can embrace abstraction, satire, lyrical figuration, a refined and meticulous approach to colour, texture, structure. Incorporating bus tickets, fabric and bits of wood, Schwitters' Mz 26, 45 Sch (1925-6) and Last Birds and Flowers (1946), in Bernard Jacobson's new show, suggest some of that range, as well as how collage is rooted in modernism's sense of cultural and social collapse and urge to mix high and low references. "Things were in terrible turmoil, everything was broken down and new things had to be made out of the fragments," as Schwitters put it.

If Schwitters had a successor, it was perhaps the eclectic Joseph Cornell, who assembled found objects, often kitsch, into box-size tableaux and gilt-framed collages on board, such as Penny Arcade and Carrousel - Lanner Waltzes. In the mid-20th century, collage liberated all sorts of artists to experiment - Dadist Hans Arp, abstract painter Robert Motherwell, and pop artists as diverse as Richard Hamilton, Roy Lichtenstein and Tom Wesselmann, whose Bedroom Collage Edition, a photograph of the Manhattan skyline receding against the close-up of a breast, sliced so that the erect nipple rises in parallel to the towering buildings, flanked by symbols of sensuality - fur, orange, flowers - is a distillation of motifs of desire and power derived from consumer imagery.

Collage began in 1912 when Picasso pasted an Italian postage stamp on a depicted letter and Braque stuck pieces of wallpaper on his drawings. This show celebrates the centenary of a medium that has become a way of life for our cut'n'paste, easy-appropriation generation, but remains capable of endless regeneration: the earliest work here is Giacomo Balla's futurist Attenti Alle Spie (1913-14), the latest are a card sculpture by Anthony Caro and Bruce McLean's Waiter Curator.

www.jacobsongallery.com, 020 7734 3431, to May 31