I am something of an evangelist for collage. In addition to making sizable collages in my own studio these days, I'm also teaching a class on the history and practice of collage, AND I'm bit obsessed with following it's increasingly frequent appearance in contemporary art. (To that end I do think the New Museum's fairly recent show on collage was a pretty uninspiring "state-of-the-medium" show.)
I've been engaged in making collages since I began studying art at Penn State's School of Visual Art. My obsession with sketchbook-keeping really took off at that point, and making quick, improvisatory collages as often as I could was a major means of keeping my visual mind agile. I still make those kinds of collages as often as I can in my sketchbook, even as I've moved the medium center stage in my studio practice.
What I loved/and love about collage?
1. its propensity toward informality
2. its adamant materiality--oh I love drawing too, but collage is just a bit weightier and I respond to girth--hence my love for oil paint as well.
3. its picture plane trickery flicking us back and forth between illusion and physical actuality
4. collage's materiality necessitates figuring by making/doing. I once heard Jessica Stockholder characterize making as a "kind of thinking"--wow that comment resonated. And indeed, I am most happy/clear when I'm really mucking about in a lot of stuff--it just makes the most sense to my head and hands.
5. collage's anguish-filled relationship to painting--I'm a proponent of combativeness being a means toward re-definition in painting, antagonism coaxing out the fresh mark--collage is just enough of a threat to painting's unblemished, "unalterable" surface to send me spiraling into all kinds of wonderings about where painting could go, what it could be, etc.
7. when collage is really good it has the capacity to take an object's/entity's original definition and completely re-define what that object/entity IS, fundamentally! Metaphysical brilliance!
8. Mark Bradford.
To end with Picasso's attitude toward collage:
“We must have been crazy, or cowards, to abandon this! We had such magnificent means. Look how beautiful this is—not because I did it, naturally—and we had these means yet I turned back to oil paint and you to marble. It’s insane.”
Picasso to Henri Laurens, 8 July 1948, on seeing one of his collages of 1914 (cited in Kahnweiler, Entretiens avec Picasso, 1956)