Stranger than Nostalgia: Jim Jarmusch Collage Art at James Fuentes Gallery
Back in 2016, Jim Jarmusch donated one of his rarely seen collage art pieces for an auction to benefit the Film-Makers’ Cooperative. The online auction at the time included other artists, as well as filmmakers from the director’s “No Wave” generation showcased in a group show on the Lower East Side.
Since then, the filmmaker, musician, and local legend, has been quietly working away on his collage art mainly for therapeutic and inspirational reasons in his spare time.
But now, with the release of the Some Collages book, and accompanying gallery show “Newsprint Collages,” which opened Wednesday at James Fuentes Gallery on Delancey Street, Jarmusch can officially add collage artist to his identity.
Collage art is normally seen as an additive process, but in Jarmusch’s work, what’s missing is as important as what is added. For instance, collage has all the icons of the Wizard of Oz characters, but their faces are all blacked out. Other collages depict figures of a bygone era whose actions are interrupted by the addition of a superimposed face, sometimes familiar, sometimes not, but always gleeful in their new form.
While the figures torn from old newsprint are steeped in Americana, there’s nothing nostalgic about Jarmsuch’s colleges. There isn’t any obvious irony to consume. And although some of the beheaded figures are superimposed with the faces of Donald Trump and Michael Bloomberg, the images aren’t easily transmissible to any meme or propagandized political idea.
Bringing new meaning to the word typeface, one seated figure has his face cut clear and replaced with text with words from a article on Joseph Albers.
Themes of identity loss or swapping identity are pervasive in Jarmusch’s films since the 1984 feature film Stranger Than Paradise. And Down By Law, Night on Earth, Dead Man, and Only Lover’s Left Alive also have characters with conflicting identities.
Steering clear of the Exacto-Knife, Jarmusch instead uses tools that leave a jagged, rough edge to the images he’s torn from old newsprint. While Jarmusch credits fine artists like Max Ernst, Joseph Cornell, and Man Ray as influences, the work still shows that the New York City filmmaker hasn’t lost touch with the punk rock / DIY aesthetic that informed his earlier career.
It’s here that the book by Anthology Editions goes a long way to reproduce Jarmusch’s ephemeral collages against kraft paper toned cardstock. And the images in the hardback art book appear close to the actual size of the originals.
In your hands, the monograph feels like a family album or a scrapbook one might find at a thrift or flea. Except here, the pages turn with images that appear disembodied, their identities replaced with both iconic and unfamiliar faces that fail to evoke any sentimental memory. In turn, the gallery presentation takes care not to interfere with that ephemeral charm.
On the whole, both the gallery presentation and the book leaves us with a much larger scale impression of the past jumbled with the present than our initial reaction to any one of the intimate, small works..
The Anthology Editions texts include an introduction by Luc Sante who is an expert on vintage “spiritual photography.” Sante along with Lydia Lunch will appear at a spoken word performance at Berlin on October 3 in the East Village.
The Jim Jarmusch “Newsprint Collage” gallery show appropriately runs through Halloween at the James Fuentes gallery at 55 Delancey Street.