Drawing from the Curtin University Art Collection, Assemblage features sculptures, paintings, jewellery and collage that are linked by a use of found or appropriated materials, and an experimental and playful approach to art-making. The exhibition showcases a range of artworks that are rarely publicly seen due to their fragile, complex or ephemeral nature, and many of the works have recently been restored.
With its roots in cubist collage, and connections to art movements including Dada, Surrealism, Futurism, Pop-art, Fluxus and Arte Povera, ‘Assemblage’ is a diverse and wide-ranging art form. William C Seitz, Curator of the seminal 1961 exhibition, The Art of Assemblage (New York Museum of Modern Art) described assemblages as being made up of both natural and salvaged or recycled materials that were not intended as art materials. For Seitz, the interplay between elements: both created and borrowed, creates new meaning (often through an “aura of associations”) that functions much like a poet’s use of metaphor.
For the Contemporary art audience this ground breaking and progressive approach may now seem common place, however assemblage art was, and continues to be, a dynamic and inspiring art form. As Seitz describes, the term ‘Assemblage’ denotes, “not only a specific procedure and form . . . but also a complex of attitudes and ideas”ii. Paramount to this ‘attitude’ and conceptual approach is an embracing of experimentation and risk. As Anne Ellegood states, “Defying a classical notion of truth or a conventional idea of beauty in art, these earlier unorthodox practices sought out something new for art with an urgent commitment, ultimately asserting that art can, and should, be risky, contradictory, confrontational, and even unstable.”iii It could be argued that, as a use of found objects is central to its defining characteristics, so too is its eclectic and experimental nature and it is the latter that underpins its continuing relevance and fascination today.
Curated by Lia McKnight, John Curtin Gallery Collection Manager