REGINALD CASE COLLAGE HANDBOOK selected articles, statements and reviews
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The Collage Handbook

John and Joan Digby

The art of collage -- the pasting together of paper or other bits of ephemera -- has been practiced by artists ever since the invention of paper, but it is only in the twentieth century that it has emerged as a full-fledged art form in its own right. Some of its roots are in folk art; in all its guises it tends to use commonplace, everyday materials.

Its first modern flowering took place in the experimental hands of Picasso and Braque just before the First World War. However, it was during the War itself, among the dada groups of Zurich and Berlin, that contemporary collage, as it has developed up to the present day, was established in the work of Max Ernst, Hans Arp, and especially Kurt Schwitters, who set his personal seal on the art of combining throwaway scraps of paper with hidden and implied meanings.
Reginald Case's Young Girl
#142 Young Girl
Photo collage, 18" x 13"
Collection: Museum of American Folk Art, NYC
Reginald Case's Young Girl
#143 Girl with Red Dress
Photo collage, 18" x 12"

The following excerpt is taken from The Collage Handbook by John and Joan Digby
(page 110)


Born in 1937 in Watertown, New York, Reginald Case was trained in painting and drawing at San Francisco State College and Boston University, where he received an M.F.A.

He came to collage in about 1975, attracted by a new world of subject-matter and effects that he could never have explored in conventional techniques. Although he studied art in a period dominated by abstract expressionism, still-life exerted a strong appeal on him, and in making still-life compositions he was drawn to taboo materials that violate traditional color harmony and taste. Almost in rebellion against the austerity of his training, he began to use flourescent paints and household enamel, metallic surfaces, fabric, trimmings, glitter, and Mylar sheeting. These he set against cut images borrowed from popular magazines and the work of earlier artists that he admired. Even the borrowings violated his training, which he shed progressively as the collages evolved.

In his first explorations he would project a collage composition onto canvas and paint from it. Finally, the direct quality of the collage textures led hiim to abandon the painting altogether and turn to collage as the final expression.

Despite what he calls his "outlandish" materials, the glitter and the trim, Case's collages are formal statements. Beyond the initial jolt of their intensity, they are figurative pieces that derive from American folk art with its patterned geometricities, repeating stencils, family trees, and dolls. In the naive he finds a "wonderment" that stands in opposition to contemporary abstraction. "Western tradition," he argues, "had obliterated pattern; collage gives it back." In his collages, particularly, pattern dominates so strongly as to eliminate empty space. He rejects altogether the white background. His most recent pieces cover even colored areas with total patterning, like the face of a pinball machine.

Enchanted as a youth with model railroad sets and movie facades, he returns to these in the collages, where the imagery often centers on American fantasy figures like Annie Oakley, Humphrey Bogart, Buffalo Bill, and Jean Harlow. Always in Case's collages there is the idea and formal organization of the stage. In recent work he has built the collage into a relief surface, extending the stage to a further, three-dimensional realization that sometimes includes miniature marquee lights.

Despite the subject-matter, his collages are not nostalgic or sentimental. In one series he chose to explore the Holocaust, setting German figures from the military and music hall against complex patterns of Jugendstil rugs, stained glass, furniture, and fragile butterfly wings.

In these and all of Reginald Case's collages there is an iconography of twentieth-century life that explores the patterned imagery at the roots of popular culture.

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