Daniel Weinberg Gallery
Los Angeles, CA 90048
The Artist and Bricolage
The postmodern artist was often referred to as “belated,” meaning that s/he comes “after” modernism. In the post-avant-garde art world, nothing could be new and astonishing. Novelty would only be co-opted. Innovation would only be commodified. In this period of “waning,” as Frederick Jameson expressed it, the artist could only mourn the passing of the modern and pay homage by endlessly remaking and restating the art of one hundred years ago. But what is the post-postmodern artist to do, when the theoretical strategies of the postmodern artist have proved to be dessicated and pretentious? Don’t despair; the mash-up is here.
Patrick McElnea is a recent Yale graduate and a product of a culture of art makers relieved of the burden of being God-like creators. His small collages are more related to Bruce Connor’s film montages of found footage than to the modernist collage. The disparate images in Connor’s film were joined together by the music of Respighi. McElnea uses anti-aesthetics to mash his elements into a writhing picture plane, simulating togetherness but resisting cohesion. McElnea is a Twenty-First Century practitioner of random arbitrary bricolage. Like a magpie, he is attracted to the bright and shiny and pretty and picks up whatever strikes his fantasy. But to the found bits, he adds handmade insertions and crams elements together, guided only by formal principles of the decorative and the imperative of craft. The artist subverts the “all-overness” of modernism in his densely packed surfaces by first, shrinking the scale to that of the Medieval miniature, and second, by making the forms collide in a manic frenzy of horror vaccui. Nothing more important is being expressed here but play, one of the most profound concepts of postmodernism.
McElnea’s collages are attractive and retinally irritating, refusing beauty but insisting on visual sensuality. Defying Duchamp, his work agitates the retina, stimulates the brain via the eye, reversing the curse of “olfactory art.” His visual aesthetic seems to stem from Cindy Sherman’s grotesques of the late Eighties—the art of his childhood, which like a sly child, he has cut and pasted, with a mind trained by computers. The cool and dampened color schemes are of the same tenor, a mood of underlying dark, punctuated by neon brightness. These tiny little collages look as if they were vomited from a meal consisting of too much Pollock and Krasner. Throw in a few words and letters, à la alphabet soup, carve out a few shapes and stir well with the binder of expressionistic paint, possibly left over from George Grosz, jam it all together and, voilà, you have a post-postmodern mash up. Kurt Schwitters gone mad, a hundred years later. Not that I am a modernist, but I would like to see these layers of manic activity take over larger and larger surfaces–they are that good and that intriguing. Keep the scale small but let the size grow into a Pollock Mural. These outbursts of manic collage is an anal retentive art of hunting and hoarding, updating Carol Cara but eliminating the future, destroying the vortex but stopping time. An interesting new artist is here–watch him.
If you have found this material useful, please give credit to
Dr. Jeanne S. M. Willette and Art History Unstuffed.