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Dime Gallery's "BOP!" exhibit takes us on a collage adventure

Jun 30, 2023

If you were lucky enough to have had a teacher with an artistic bent or parents who wanted to keep you from watching TV or goofing around on the internet, it’s possible you created a collage when you were a youngster.

Whatever your memories may be and whatever definition you might have of collage, you will have your understanding expanded and your appreciation heightened by observing a stunning exhibition titled “BOP! Adventures in Collage” at the Dime Gallery.

The formal, if rather limited, definition from the Merriam-Webster dictionary will tell you that a collage is “an artistic composition made of various materials (such as paper, cloth, or wood) glued on a surface.”

There are 27 artists represented at “BOP!” with more than three dozen works, a compelling panorama of styles and substance.

Ray Borchers’ collages are displayed in BOP! Adventures in Collage, an exhibition she co-curated at The Dime in Wicker Park. (Eileen T. Meslar/Chicago Tribune)

The show has been curated by two of those artists. Tony Fitzpatrick, the man who runs the Dime and is a renowned visual artist (among his many pursuits), was the curator of the first “BOP!” show, which took place last summer at the Satchel Projects gallery in New York City, labeled “Adventures in American Collage.”

“The plan was always to have a show here and we plan to have another show in Savannah (Georgia) next, with maybe 20 more artists,” says Fitzpatrick. “But by the time we open at the Met in New York, as we are scheduled to next year, we’ll have even more.”

He has ceded curatorial duties for the Chicago show to two younger female artists named Paloma Trecka and Ray Borchers, saying, “These two are not only amazing artists but are better acquainted with contemporary collaging than I am and so they have been able to bring many new artists to the gallery, to expand my collage world.”

So I asked each of the women, “What is collage?”

Trecka said, “You have to use just what you have available. I like to think of it as finding, minding and binding, taking what you have and thinking about it and combining it all. There is an improvisational quality to it.”

Borchers said, “A collage, like Frankenstein, is an assemblage of parts, each with their own connotation. I can paint anything and rely on this process as a foundation in which all elements interplay, hide, reveal and distort. The act of cutting is its own gesture, violent and abrupt.

“I have also heard from other artists who have told me that collage is an immediate form of processing an experience by manipulating and layering materials. Like a sketch, ideas can quickly develop into a new form.”

Pieces are displayed for BOP! Adventures in Collage, an exhibition co-curated by Ray Borchers and Paloma Trecka, at The Dime in Wicker Park. (Eileen T. Meslar/Chicago Tribune)

Each has collages on the Dime walls, as does Fitzpatrick. Trecka often works with collages but it is just one part of her art, and that is true of most of the artists. One artist is a muralist, another primarily a poet, one a first responder, a sculptor and a couple are musicians. Borchers, who also plays in a band, is a multidisciplinary artist who often uses her collages as first-draft inspirations for the large portraits she paints.

“They are a means to an end,” she says, adding that she worked for many years with the great, late photographer Marc Hauser.

You will find all the works on the Dime walls interesting, much of it beautiful, much of it thought-provoking. There is a bit of wonder, and a certain sadness, looking at Nick Bubash’s 3D wonder “Bud Vase.” The sculptor, visual artist and tattoo artist died late in 2021.

Though it might seem to have been an artistic medium for centuries, collage did not become a prominent part of the visual art scene until the early 1900s.

That was when a couple of pals, Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, began to make collages. In short, that started in 1912 when Braque walked past a wallpaper store, went in and bought some wood-grain wallpaper. In his studio, he began to cut the wallpaper and paste rectangular patches of it onto some of his large charcoal drawings. This combination, he said, gave him “a great shock, and it was an even greater shock for Picasso when I showed it to him.”

The two artists began energetically exploring this new form. Braque called his first one “Fruit Dish and Glass” and the prolific Picasso quickly created more than 100.

They called what they were doing collage, from the French verb “coller,” which means “to glue” or “to stick.”

Other artists, famously Juan Gris, Man Ray, Henri Matisse and David Hockney, followed their lead. Some of those in “BOP!” might one day attain that lofty status but none I talked to worry about such acceptance.

“Each collage represents a different kind of person, a reflection of how that person has chosen to collaborate with the world around them,” says Trecka.

Ray Borchers varnishes one of her acrylic paintings in her studio at The Dime in Wicker Park on Aug. 10, 2023, for a future show at Lula Cafe. (Eileen T. Meslar/Chicago Tribune)

Lying around on tables at the Dime you will find handsomely organized catalogs of sorts, in which each of the artists gives some biographical information and attempts to articulate their artistic views.

You will read such varied things as …

“I cut ‘em up and glue ‘em down.”

“I have delved into the realm of collage to shed light on the intricate and often misunderstood subject of mental health.”

“Art slows the world for me.”

“For a long time cutting and pasting was a means to an end, but several years ago I began experimenting with collage as a stand-alone art form.”

“I am sculpting, because it’s time to sculpt.”

“I enjoy cutting & folding & gluing paper very much.”

“I like to find beauty in the mundane.”

The particular beauties of “BOP!,” the word borrowed from jazz, will remain at the Dime through September. If you’re lucky, you might run into one of the artists.

If not, don’t worry, their work will fully satisfy.

“BOP! Adventures in Collage” runs through Sept. 3 at the Dime Gallery at 1513 N. Western Ave.; free, bopartshow.com

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