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03  |   H E R E  A N D  N O W  [ H I C  E T  N U N C ]
Collage, 1981
Cut-and-pasted printed paper on cotton
100 x 100 cm
Private collection.



Switching from cardboard to foam-core mounting board substrates enabled me to experiment more easily with variously collaged surfaces. Depafit® was irresistibly easy to cut, lift, and otherwise handle, yet, while it to some degree limited my choice of formats, its greatest drawback, however, was its sensitivity to fluctuations in humidity: a susceptibility so pronounced that, hydroscopically speaking, this in other respects so obliging material led a ruthlessly self-absorbed  existence, manifesting a propensity to curve and bend, as vexatious as it was unrelenting, no matter how conscientiously I papered over the reverse. The search for a resonable, workable solution to this problem soon had me looking to make my paper pictures on stretched, untreated cotton, only to find that, when a profusion of paper rectangles expands (as, of course, it must when dampened with water-based methylcellulose paste) and contracts (as it dries), it develops a torque and tensile force so great that the fabric is very nearly torn off its stretchers—which, in turn, warp and twist out of shape to boot.

The first such attempt I made to work with these materials involved a canvas measuring one meter square, which I called HERE AND NOW. Hundreds of “white” paper rectangles were arranged in five-centimeter-wide rows, running parallel to each of the four edges and meeting in the center, thus describing an X—as in “X marks the spot”—in diagonal “cicatrices” that extended from corner to corner. And although, when finished, the work had to be removed from its stretchers for the reasons described above, I nevertheless hung it on my workroom wall “as is.” There, a friend from Warsaw saw and—this technical malheur notwithstanding—took a shine to it, eventually talking me into giving it to him, on the condition that he have “restored.” Hence the first time I drove to Poland after the Wall had fallen, in May 1991, I delivered it to him as damaged goods, returning sometime later to find it expertly mounted on a wooden backing. I signed the rehabilitated version for him, amending the title to HIC ET NUNC to underscore the artifactual nature of its resurrected form and continuing existence.

Back in early 1981, having not yet turned thirty, I refused to let this initial lack of success with fabric and stretchers get the better of me. Onward and upward, I continued my attempts with the same materials, next creating a matched pair of untitled technical nonstarters : twins, each measuring 1.5 by 1.5 meters, one “white” like HERE AND NOW, and the other “black’” For just as there is no true white to be found in the pages of an illustrated magazine, black, in this context, is a movable feast as well and must be understood to mean darkest reds, blues, greens, browns, and so forth. Thus, as unfortunate—and untutored—as I was concerning my choice of media, by expanding on my experience with LIFE IN THE BIG CITY and using the black areas of the printed pages of magazines instead of the white, I was able to develop a technique for fashioning large, dark-hued collage that exhibited a diversity of color at once vibrant and restrained.

For this second attempt, I sought to counteract the material’s inexorable shrinkage by stretching it very loosely, hoping that the contraction process would merely take up the slack and not twist the pictures off their frames. However, while the results were definitely better, in the long run, my hopes were dashed, for, when thoroughly dried, the canvases refused to hang completely plane against the wall. Just as with HERE AND NOW, the outcome was aesthetically satisfying but mechanically disappointing, albeit, here, I left the canvases on their stretchers, which, only modestly deformed this time, could be coaxed into a semblance of planar correctness.

THREE’S A CROWD, 1994, collage, cut-and-pasted printed paper on wood, 150 x 150 cm.

[NB: The edges of individual paper "sinippets" are unusually pronounced in this photograph.]

The patterns of fine, raised lines traced in the relief of paper rectangles on the pictures’ surfaces—to wit, a circle 1.5 meters in diameter, bisected horizontally, vertically, and diagonally, and itself enclosing a square en pointe—were, in fact, so pleasing that, in 1994, the Swiss CD-producer for whose New Music series I was then designing covers inveigled me into making a copy of it—this time on wood—when I declined to sell him the black original in its less than perfect state. He then used the panel—which I titled THREE’S A CROWD in its regenerated form—as the cover of a jazz CD. But while the panel turned out to be a good-looking and perfectly legitimate piece, this somewhat convoluted provenance prohibits, or at least inhibits me—perhaps unfairly—from including either incarnation in this catalogue as a work in its own right.



There now remains to describe but one more specimen—a high, wide, and handsome, two-by-two-meter dark-hued disaster—to complete this rogue’s gallery of technical ineptitude. I no longer remember, nor can I imagine, what excess of optimism possessed me to begin, let alone complete, all the work involved in covering its four-square-meter surface (so awkwardly sized for the type of meticulous work required!) with squares—there were either nine or sixteen of them—similar to the one in HERE AND NOW. Perhaps I thought that this time I’d be lucky enough to gauge the material’s ratio of tautness to shrinkage just right. All I can say for certain is that after this last, vain effort, I gave up trying to work on stretched fabric for good. Removed from its stretchers and attached along its upper edge to a hollow iron rod, this really rather beautiful object hung loosely rolled, like an enormous piece of leather, high up on my workroom wall for over thirty years, until I abandoned it, when I had to move to considerably smaller quarters, after Eberhard Blum died.