In the Spirit of Collage

In the fall of 2018, Mickalene Thomas’s I Can’t See You Without Me was the conversation starter. There was so much to take in, to contemplate. Thomas’s tableaux. Her muses’ gazes. Color. It was all there. But it was in a gallery talk by Lucy Zimmerman, Assistant Curator at the Wex, that mentioned a key subject in Thomas’s work: collage. Thomas’s large-scale paintings of muses are collages—personal memories in different patterns. Beautiful black women painted and layered in time and space—angled and captured with color and shape. With collage, Thomas made a world that willfully merged the old and the new. It was experimentation. A tattered edge became a mountain side; a discarded scrap became a missing puzzle piece.

At the Wex this spring, the spirit of collage continues as a carefully crafted mosaic. A trusting jump into the unknown. Or, a meditation on perspective. Jason Moran, jazz musician and composer, in an exhibition titled in his name Jason Moran, invites us to view jazz anew with his mixed media installations and collaborations with Kara Walker, Lorna Simpson, Carrie Mae Weems, Theaster Gates, Glenn Ligon, Julie Mehretu, Adam Pendleton, and others. Moran is a worldbuilder, harnessing collage’s cousins: jazz and improvisation. This past week, at the exhibition opening, The Ogún Meji Duo, which includes percussionist Mark Lomax II and saxophonist Edwin Bayard, played inside of Moran’s installations and tableaux works, channeling that same mix of past and present, place and collaboration.


Also in the galleries this summer, Barbara Hammer’s poignant work Evidentiary Bodies; which highlights Hammer’s lesser known sculptural works paired with her well-known work in film and video. In a distant yet echoing conversation with Hammer’s work is filmmaker Lana Lin’s The Cancer Journals Revisited; which invites us behind the camera as Lin films 27 writers, artists, health care advocates, activists, and current and former patients as they recite Audre Lorde’s memoir of the same name. The Cancer Journals discusses Lorde’s experience with breast cancer, and Lin, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010, contemplates out loud the body and the idea of what holds the pieces of a self together.

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Also on screen this spring is George T. Nierenberg’s Say Amen, Somebody (1983); an acclaimed documentary about gospel music and the process of meaning-making.

These works by these artists are not mere fragments. They are parts carefully arranged and rearranged. Perspectives to be cherished and revisited. Because, as Hammer, Lin, Moran, (Mickalene) Thomas, and others remind us, a new picture only forms after taking time, sitting with the parts in order to eventually bring them together.

This summer, how will you adopt the spirit of collage? Or, rather, what’s your perspective? Come muse with us…

Jason Moran (opening preview on May 31st; on view from Jun. 1st to Aug. 11th):

George T. Nierenberg (Jun. 21st at 7:00 pm and Jun. 22nd at 7:00 pm):

Michael Goodson on Jason Moran and Cecilia Vicuña (June 27th   at 5:30 pm):

Lana Lin (June 27th at 7:00 pm and June 28th at 7:00 pm):

On Pause (Jun. 12th at 12:00 pm; Jun. 19th at 12:0 pm; Jun. 26th at 12:00 pm):



photo and video of The Ogún Meji Duo: Dionne Custer Edwards

Image from The Cancer Journals courtesy of Lana Lin

Say Amen, Somebody,
image courtesy of Milestone Films

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