From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Assemblage is an artistic process. In the visual arts, it consists of making three-dimensional or two-dimensional artistic compositions by putting together found objects.
The origin of the artform dates to the cubist constructions of Pablo Picasso c. 1912-1914. The origin of the word (in its artistic sense) can be traced back to the early 1950s, when Jean Dubuffet created a series of collages of butterfly wings, which he titled assemblages d'empreintes. However, both Marcel Duchamp and Pablo Picasso had been working with found objects for many years prior to Dubuffet. They were not alone. Russian artist Vladimir Tatlin creates his "counter-reliefs" in the middle of 1910s. Alongside Tatlin, the earliest woman artist to try her hand at assemblage was Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, the Dada Baroness. In addition, one of the earliest and most prolific was Louise Nevelson, who began creating her sculptures from found pieces of wood in the late 1930s.
In 1961, the exhibition "The Art of Assemblage" was featured at the New York Museum of Modern Art. The exhibition showcased the work of early 20th century European artists such as Braque, Dubuffet, Marcel Duchamp, Picasso, and Kurt Schwitters alongside Americans Man Ray, Joseph Cornell, Robert Mallary and Robert Rauschenberg, and also included less well known American West Coast assemblage artists such as George Herms, Bruce Conner and Edward Kienholz. William C Seitz, the curator of the exhibition, described assemblages as being made up of preformed natural or manufactured materials, objects, or fragments not intended as art materials.
Artists primarily known for assemblage
- Arman (1928–2007), French artist, sculptor and painter.
- Hans Bellmer (1902–1975), a German artist known for his life-sized female dolls, produced in the 1930s.
- Wallace Berman (1926–1976), an American artist known for his verifax collages.
- André Breton (1896–1966), a French artist, regarded as a principal founder of Surrealism.
- John Chamberlain (1927-2011), a Chicago artist known for his sculptures of welded pieces of wrecked automobiles.
- Greg Colson (born 1956), an American artist known for his wall sculptures of stick maps, constructed paintings, solar systems, directionals, and intersections.
- Joseph Cornell (1903–1972). Cornell, who lived in New York City, is known for his delicate boxes, usually glass-fronted, in which he arranged surprising collections of objects, images of renaissance paintings and old photographs. Many of his boxes, such as the famous Medici Slot Machine boxes, are interactive and are meant to be handled.
- Rosalie Gascoigne (1917–1999), a New Zealand sculptor.
- Raoul Hausmann (1886–1971), an Austrian artist and writer and a key figure in Berlin Dada, his most famous work is the assemblage Der Geist Unserer Zeit - Mechanischer Kopf (Mechanical Head [The Spirit of Our Age]), c. 1920.
- Romauald Hazoumé (born 1962), a contemporary artist from the Republic of Bénin, who exhibits widely in Europe and the U.K.
- Robert H. Hudson (born 1938), an American artist.
- Edward Kienholz (1927–1994), an American artist who collaborated with his wife, Nancy Reddin Kienholz, creating free-standing, large-scale "tableaux" or scenes of modern life such as the Beanery, complete with models of persons, made of discarded objects.
- Jean-Jacques Lebel (born 1936), in 1994 installed a large assemblage entitled Monument à Félix Guattari in the Forum of the Centre Pompidou.
- Ondrej Mares (1949–2008), a Czech-Australian artist and sculptor best known for his 'Kachina' figures - a series of works.
- Louise Nevelson (1899–1988), an American artist, known for her abstract expressionist “boxes” grouped together to form a new creation. She used found objects or everyday discarded things in her “assemblages” or assemblies, one of which was three stories high.
- Minoru Ohira (born 1950), a Japanese-born artist.
- Meret Oppenheim (1913–1985), a German-born Swiss artist, identified with the Surrealist movement.
- Robert Rauschenberg (1925–2008), painter and collagist known for his mixed media works during six decades.
- Fred H. Roster (born 1944), an American sculptor.
- Daniel Spoerri (born 1930), a Swiss artist, known for his "snare pictures" in which he captures a group of objects, such as the remains of meals eaten by individuals, including the plates, silverware and glasses, all of which are fixed to the table or board, which is then displayed on a wall.
- Vladimir Tatlin (1885–1953), a Russian artist known for his counter-reliefs — structures made of wood and iron for hanging in wall corners in the 1910s.
- Wolf Vostell (1932–1998), known for his use of concrete in his work. In his environments video installations and paintings he used television sets and concrete as well as telephones real cars and pieces of cars.
- Jeff Wassmann (born 1958), an American-born contemporary artist who works in Australia under the nom de plume of the pioneering German modernist Johann Dieter Wassmann (1841–1898).
- H. C. Westermann (1922–1981), an American sculptor and printmaker.