THE NEW YORKER | Review of Alan Gallery Collage Show


“…The Hall pieces are precise, if unexciting, and the Tanguys (early works, freer and more spontaneous than his later ones) are certainly worth a visit. But the Ernsts interested me most, especially in comparison with the other exhibit, of contemporary collages and constructions by Bruce Conner, at the Alan. In the Ernsts, done when collage was in its infancy, the effort is to disguise the method. The tiny cutouts all taken from modish nineteenth-century steel engravings, are so painstakingly assembled that it is not until one observes that an ogre’s headhas grown on a maiden’s body, or that a scene of tannery workers has been subtly transformed into a fantastic assembly-line slaughterhouse, that one realizes that one is confronted with collage at all. Conner, however, is an exponent of the new school, like Robert Rauschenberg and others of his madcap group, and – though essentially Dada in his wild inventiveness – has carried collage to a point where it is barely distinguishable from his constructivist work. Anything from a bicycle wheel to a doll’s head floating on a sea of black ink to a mysterious ink-stained mirror or a row of carpet tacks can be found lodged in his creations, and the interesting thing to me is the way the emphasis has shifted from concealment (letting the collage effect creep up on the spectator) to the stressing, and the almost blatantly exploiting, the randomness of the assemblage.”