Collage display at Orange Coast College pieces together comic books and literature
A new, large-scale series of collages has made its way to Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, where the works are going on display as part of artist Richard Kraft’s first solo exhibition in Southern California since 2015.
The “Flag Sail Wing” exhibit will open Thursday and be on display through Dec. 5 at the Frank M. Doyle Arts Pavilion. It features six new pieces — one of which is composed of 39 different, smaller pieces. Three of the largest installations — “Flag,” “Sail” and “Wing” — give the exhibit its name.
Kraft began work on the series in 2018. The newest piece, “Wing,” was completed last month.
The collages at the Doyle incorporate comic book images and literature, inspired by a collage Kraft made in 2012 from cut pages of James Joyce’s “Ulysses.”
“I didn’t really make another piece like that for several years and then I thought ... what could be really interesting [is] if I sort of brought that process and began to work with images as opposed to just text,” Kraft said.
Kraft, a photography professor at Orange Coast College, described his work as eclectic. He likes to work in different media, he said, and the exhibit reflects his interest in non-linear narratives.
“I got really excited about the way that they looked, about the kind of jumbling of history. In a way, it’s like dismantling history and then piecing it back together again,” he said. “But in none of these pieces can one follow a single linear track, and that seems really emblematic of actually how history really is.”
“We tend to think of history as being, ‘OK, the United States began here and we’re now here and it’s this straight line,’” he added. “But actually, it’s really messy ... and complicated. There’s hundreds of thousands of different stories that are versions of that history.”
The six installations attempt to address that, he said.
For example, Kraft said, “Flag,” which measures a total of 10 feet tall and 7 feet long, is composed of two panels. The left panel is a collage of Howard Zinn’s “People’s History of the United States,” while the right panel is a collection of comic book cuttings that illustrate American history.
“In my eyes, [the comics] are very romanticized versions of American history and [the text] is a completely unromanticized vision of that history, but they’re both kind of flawed in a way,” Kraft said. "[Zinn] sees things through a very specific filter ... as do those comics. This piece really takes both of those approaches to American history and deconstructs them.”
Doyle Arts Pavilion director Tyler Stallings said he had been following Kraft’s work for years. After hearing about the new collection, Stallings was intrigued and decided to include the exhibition because of the scale of the collages and the use of comic books, he said.
“Comic books, album covers, things like that, I think was often the first introduction that people had to visual art,” Stallings said. “I think from a curatorial point of view ... it’s interesting to think where people first had that engagement with art or thinking of art in a different way.”
Stallings said he was interested in the way Kraft used what was familiar and then defamiliarized it by cutting it up for the collages.
“With collage, what’s nice is when you’re actually in the space looking at the work, you sense the artist’s process and the labor that they put in this when you think about somebody obsessively applying these very tiny images to a big, expansive space,” Stallings said.
“You can’t help but hopefully make somebody wonder why somebody would be so obsessive about engaging in something that’s so time-consuming.”
The gallery will hold an opening reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, and a tour with Kraft will be held at noon Nov. 14.
“There’s no one way to look at it. There’s no one way to navigate through it. There’s no one way to experience it,” Kraft said. “My hope is that every time people come back, they see different things. They’ll find different things and different ways through the piece. Each of those experiences is a sort of different narrative.”
IF YOU GO
What: “Flag Sail Wing: New Collages by Richard Kraft”
Where: Frank M. Doyle Arts Pavilion, next to parking Lot D off Merrimac Way near Fairview Road, Orange Coast College, Costa Mesa
When: Thursday through Dec. 5; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 2
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