An untitled 2011 inkjet print collage by Robert Levine. (From the artist and L&M Arts,…)
This may be the information age, but more specifically, it's the mash-up moment. Images, sounds, words -- all are retrieved instantly from our collective digital memory bank by artists and advertisers alike, shaken, stirred and spilled back out.
In the day when collage really did involve scissors and glue, the discontinuities it invoked had more power to jolt and disarm. Think Höch and Heartfield. Now, makers are mixers and the visual fabric of the everyday is a busy, buzzing patchwork.
L&M's "Mash Up: Collage From 1930 to the Present" brings these thoughts to mind, not because the show's contemporary offerings are lackluster (some are, some aren't), but because it implicitly suggests that the strategy of recontextualization itself has lost some punch as it has become normalized.
The genre still leaves room for irreverence, however, and who better to count on for that than Paul McCarthy, represented by a collage from the '70s that turns a cigarette ad's sexual subtext into a blatant, gender-mixing come-on, and a recent floor installation, a carpet encrusted with the leavings of an industrial-strength aesthetic orgy.
Tenderness and humor have room to play here too in works by Joseph Cornell, Romare Bearden and Dorothea Tanning. A sprightly little inkjet print collage by Robert Levine sets Superman to work propping up a tilted shape within a Suprematist composition, and Fred Tomaselli makes a small but gorgeous splash with his layering of ecstatic painted patterns and cut paper leaves atop a sober, ghostly photogram. Others in the show include Christian Marclay, Aaron Curry, Mark Bradford, C.K. Wilde, David Hammons, Glenn Brown and Sterling Ruby.
L&M Arts, 660 S. Venice Blvd., Venice, (310) 821-6400, through Aug. 31. Closed Saturdays and Sundays (summer hours). www.lmgallery.com