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Cut and Paste: 400 Years of Collage

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Modern Two) until October 27
Four stars

Everything connects in this major overview of the ultimate DIY artform, which brings together more than 180 works dating as far back as the sixteenth century. Back then, anatomical woodcuts with flaps to reveal bodily interiors were used as educational novelties, even as they predated the sort of paper dolls appropriated by the ultimate dressing-up-box mistress of reinvention Cindy Sherman for her short film, Doll Clothes (1975).

Sherman was one of a wave of women artists using collage in a way that opened the door for the feminist photo-montages of Linder or Penny Slinger. Along the way, an array of Dadaists, cubists, futurists and punk provocateurs mix and match words and pictures to disrupt, satirise and explode old ideas out of existence. Much of this is explicitly oppositionist, with John Hartfield’s anti-Nazi photomontages predating the likes of Peter Kennard’s Haywain with Cruise Missile (1980), while Jamie Reid’s graphics for the Sex Pistols Never Mind the Bollocks album has its roots in Situationism.

With artists ranging from Picasso to Terry Gilliam, the umbilical links down the centuries are brought home with a narrative more straightforward than much of the work itself. One could imagine it all being housed in Peter Blake’s The Toy Shop (1962), which might be transplanted to the housing estate of Lucy Williams’ Crescent House (2015), where the peeling walls of Jacques Villegle’s Les Jazzmen (1961) might stand.

While we never quite get to the aural collages of sampling, Eduardo Paolozzi’s thirteen-minute film, History of Nothing, uses sound as well as vision to both illustrate and subvert the busy rush of a multi-tasking world. As it is, we finish with the likes of Christian Marclay, Jim Lambie and Jake and Dinos Chapman, who, in radically different ways, are still ripping it up and starting again. 

The List, July 2019.



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