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Half a Face, Collage


The Short Image is where I’ll offer each Thursday a few words on art, culture, and elsewhere. This week, What’s up, collage [my métier]? 

Half a Face, Collage

It’s a thing that happens all over collage. The half hidden face. Or fully hidden. Or just the eyes, masked. Some element—black band, colorful sticker, the jet of a Central Park fountain—obscuring the features of the human face.

It’s so prevalent—you’ll see it a hundred, two hundred times in collage groups on flickr or Facebook—that it’s really easy to dismiss as cliché. It is a cliché, like putting a bird on, or the dying grandmother poem. Things we know are already overdone.

But as simple as it is to scoff at, this “move in contemporary collage” (hat tip Elissa Gabbert/Mike Young), at some point you have to wonder, what the heck? Why’s the move so damn compelling?

It makes the human face strong, is what. It really does. It gives us humans a magic, a potency, an atavistic strength we don’t normally posses. We’re so banal, especially the us of old advertisements and Life magazines that are favored by collagists, and we want to put some violence into our nature. Not the everyday violence of each street, all over town, but a powerful violence, Dracula and Mumbo Jumbo and voodoo. And to hide us and our stupid faces, it imparts a force, mystery, like the man behind the curtain.

So there it is, going back to the collage work of Baldessari and before, this particular intersection of magic and the trite. And it sure is trite, a ridiculous cliché. Think harder, you fellow collage makers!

We’re going to see it though, a thousand times more. It’s an archetype of types now, a cultural marker, and if you think about it that’s pretty powerful.

Joseph Young
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About The Author

Joseph Young

Joseph Young lives in Baltimore. He has written about art for many magazines, newspapers, and websites, and his book of very short stories, Easter Rabbit (Publishing Genius), was released in 2009. His art has been seen in galleries and other venues in Baltimore and beyond. Check out his digital collage series, Newer Comics.

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