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Tel Aviv Museum of Art Opens Exhibition of Collages from 1916 to 2008
Max Ernst illustrations for the Oval Lady by Leonora Carrington, 1939.

TEL AVIV.- Collage is routinely used to describe artistic technique and practice. However, the validity of the present exhibition – which offers the viewer, in an exhibition that does not rely on chronological sequence, a selection of collages ranging from 1916 to 2008, mostly from the Tel Aviv Museum of Art collection – does not lean upon the term's limited functional meaning, but rather on the identification of collage as an utterance: the fundamental, characteristic even, utterance of the 20th century, which is charged with renewed vitality in the 21st century.

The history of collage is not the history of pasting technique. Most versions of this practice grew in a short time span, during 1911-1920, which are also the years of the simultaneous emergence of early Modernism movements. Indeed, changes that later took place in reproduction – from the photographic print screenings and lithography of the 1960s through video work, to digitization, and the present-day sweeping "cut & paste" existence – opened to artists possibilities characterized by less laborious manual work; yet over the years, and especially in contemporary work, it seems that the perceptions, versions and ways of application linked with the practice's early days have lost none of their charm and validity.

What is it, then, which even today makes collage so different, so enthralling? What is it that makes it appear so suitable of our time? Does it have any immanent, marked quality? And is it this single, specific quality that both enables its perception as the characteristic utterance of modernist avant-garde and constructs its considerable attraction today?

The versions have survived, then, unlike the contexts and perceptions within which they have been and are created. The change in the perception of hybrid and grafting bears witness to this. For in its appearance in art as collage, hybrid was the visual characteristic of the new and revolutionary, the message of a cultural, social and ethical shift; whereas in the post-industrialist stage of late capitalism, shifting, contextomy and appropriation were perceived as the obvious characteristics of our immediate environment, of society, of psychology, culture and esthetics, or, in short – of the world. The hybrid became the natural – both as the democratic opposite of the purified whole and as a result of the sweeping consumerist experience which has long assimilated it into daily routine. Knowing that meaning is hidden in the difference and that difference forever arises from repetition, we should note that collages created nowadays in methods expressed in the past century do not seek to be defined as the successors of modernist avant-garde. However, this point – alongside the fact that collage had already served Modernism as a rhetoric weapon for a wide range of ideologies and esthetics – does not limit the scopes of collage, i.e. its definition as no more than a transparently flexible technique. Collage is not "transparent"; its typical characteristics – heterogenic multiplicity, fragmentation, dissociation of components, reversal of original meaning and above all its unprecedented addiction to material reality – all provide it with structured appearance and identity.

In the outlined characteristics, detachment is more important than the attachment; that if there is anything essential in collage, it is ingrained in structuring the loaded, binding relations between materials whose independence and original contexts juxtapose them, and in the indecisive connections at the basis of the structured product. In our context, what we may call "essence" thus appears as meaning the relativity of things and the relativity of their relationship, a whole that is not homogeneous, an object that is never "whole and autonomous" and therefore, in advance, "unmonumental".

Irith Hadar

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