SHEBOYGAN, WIS. — Bruce Conner's photo montage of a nuclear mushroom cloud wearing a military suit is a critique on nuclear production.
Martin Ramirez used paper bags and other available materials to create drawings with cutout pictures, possibly to hold onto aspects of a fractured identity.
Joseph Cornell was influenced by French symbolists and Gestalt psychologists, who compiled poetic fragments to alter emphasis and meaning, when he made his collage and boxed assemblage.
Those and nearly three dozen other artists are included in "Messages & Magic: 100 Years of Collage and Assemblage in American Art," which runs through Jan. 25 at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center. It includes folk, self-taught and academically trained artists.
"Though it's an important part of American art history, collage has often been overlooked," Ruth DeYoung Kohler, the center's director, said. "We hope this exhibition leaves visitors with the sense that when pieces of our shared culture are combined, something truly magical occurs."
Curator Leslie Umberger said there have been other exhibitions on the topic, but they don't acknowledge collage as something that had roots before 1912 -- when the term collage was coined as cubist artists Pablo Picasso and George Braque began to work in it.
"We are very interested in . . . stretching those boundaries," Umberger said.