December 2004 – March 2005

Collage (from the French coller, “to stick or gum”) began as the cutting and pasting of bits of paper into pictures. This long-practiced domestic activity and interesting folk art became, in the 20th century, a major art medium. Even as the format expanded to include cloth, wood, metal, bits of realia and entire objects, collage was not just a novel way to create an interesting picture. It was also a way to subvert traditional “fine art” norms, to transgress societal conventions and to offer provocative commentary in an unexpected form. Because collage often involves borrowing or “liberating” images not of their own making, collage artists have become increasingly embroiled in the legal issues of copyright and trademark.

What we think of as modern collage began in 1912 with works by Picasso and the Cubists. After World War I, the Dadaists and Surrealists adapted collage to their own ends and developed techniques such as montage (ready-made images and cut-out illustrations mounted on a background) and photomontage (using primarily photographic images). American artists such as Jasper Johns, Romare Bearden, and Basquiat also used collage to express their views. Forms of collage are also found in video or sound art, mail art, artists’ books and zines.

Zines, which began in the 1930’s as science fiction fan magazines, or fanzines, were typically noncommercial, low budget, irregularly self-produced and distributed – traits that tend to be true to this day. The 1960’s revolution in alternative publishing, given the atmosphere of political and social unrest and the availability of cheap offset printing, gave impetus to a host of not-so underground newspapers and a multitude of “fringe culture” zines with similar intents. By the 80’s, the abundance of photocopiers and copy shops allowed thousands of independent writers and artists to publish zines. At the turn of the century, as computers and technical savvy became commonplace, a new generation of zines in electronic format was launched. But no matter what form they take (from folded and stapled mimeographed sheets to pop-up web pages) or what topic excites them (from gender to libraries) zines have used collage to communicate.

Exhibit Checklist

Unless otherwise noted, the zines, a gift of Stephen Perkins, are part of the University of Iowa Libraries Special Collections MsC 779, “Alternative Traditions in Contemporary Art: Periodicals and Zines”.

Thanks to Sarah Andrews, Kevin Kooyman, Sean Stewart, and Jen Wolfe for the loan of materials from their collections.

And a special thanks to Rudolf E. Kuenzli for his assistance in the development of this exhibition.

This exhibition is presented in conjunction with the 2004-2005 Obermann Humanities Symposium conference “Collage as Cultural Practice” (March 24-26, 2005) and the University of Iowa Museum of Art exhibition “Interventionist Collage: From Dada to the Present” (February 12-April 3, 2005).

Prepared by Rijn Templeton, Jen Wolfe, Tim Shipe and Dean Koster with assistance from Kristin Baum and Danya Crites.