Lilies of the Alley

The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art--Some Assembly Required: Collage and Assemblage

This week the Daily Palette is celebrating Some Assembly Required: Collage and Assemblage at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art (CRMA). This exhibition, which runs through January 26, 2014, takes a look at the breadth and depth of collage and assemblage, especially in the hands of American artists.

In the 19th century, before the emergence of the term collage, the gluing together bits of paper—tickets, photographs, printed texts—was largely a craft, a technique used for scrapbooks and other domestic memorabilia. In the early 20th century, however, European artists such as Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso started to incorporate bits of paper into their paintings, elevating the activity of collage into a fine art. Collage was born. Assemblage, the three-dimensional equivalent of collage, was not far behind.

Both collage and assemblage art began as a radical new way of art-making, turning its back on more traditional practices of painting and sculpting. Collages and assemblages evoke a delight in everyday things and a somewhat subversive attitude toward the "established" art world. The use of non-art materials, or even junk from the everyday world, often evokes a rawness, and occasionally poetic, qualities.

Some Assembly Required features the work of many Iowan artists, such as Grant Wood, Mauricio Lasansky, Chuck Barth, and many more. Some of the works on view date back to the 1920s, near the origin of the technique. Others demonstrate the long-lasting impact of these early experiments on multiple generations of artists. In each artist's hands, however, collage and assemblage take on a different form, reflecting each artist's unique vision.

Lilies of the Alley, earthenware flower pot and found objects, 1925

Gift of Harriet Y. and John B. Turner II, 72.12.38

Grant Wood (1891-1942), Iowa's most famous artist, was born in Anamosa and grew up in Cedar Rapids.  He founded the Stone City Art Colony in Stone City, Iowa, which operated during the summers of 1932 and 1933.  After studying art at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Academie Julian in Paris, he taught art in Cedar Rapids and later at the University of Iowa from 1935 to 1940.  A member of the well-known triumvirate of regionalist painters from the Midwest, alongside Thomas Hart Benton and John Steuart Curry, Wood focused on scenes of small town life during the 1930s when the country called for nationalistic images that would appeal to the average American.  His painting style is characterized by tight brushstrokes and attention to detail.  Wood also worked in a variety of other media: he designed stained glass windows and jewelry; he made ceramics and prints; and he made art out of metal, wood, and found objects.  Lilies of the Alley, an example of one of his assemblages, is significant in that it reveals Wood's sense of humor and his knowledge and appreciation of modern art.

Image and exhibition summary courtesy of the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art

This page was first displayed
on January 15, 2014

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