Paper Hotch Potch Extreme Collage
OFFCenter Community Arts Project

art review ABQ, 2017, Vol. 2, p. 8-9

Walking into Albuquerque’s OFFCenter can be a bit disarming if you’ve never been there before. Far more than an exhibition space, this is a community art space with an open studio where artists of any stripe—emerging to established—can find a home and inspiration. I happened to hear an announcement for this art exhibit on the radio, and had I not been to the venue before, I may not have known where in the building to look for the show!

Entering OFFCenter is to enter a hive of creativity and community. The building is located in downtown Albuquerque, New Mexico, just off the main drag. At the front of the space, on either side of the door, are shopping areas, one for original art works, and one for second-hand treasures. Purchasing from either area supports OFFCenter and the important work they do in the community. In the center of the space are work tables, and on shelves lining nearly every wall in the place are materials for use in artmaking. Painting and drawing, collage, fiber arts, sculpture, wood craft, knitting and sewing…all of these media are available for free to any community member who wants to come in and create. Here, people come to work, to teach and learn, and to find a safe space just to be themselves.

In an assuming spot on the east wall of the studio is a wall free of shelving, the gallery space where shows are curated and hung for public viewing. This is where I encountered Hotch Potch Extreme Collage. “Hotchpotch” is an old fashioned British word describing a thick stew made of vegetables and meat. Some might be more familiar with “hodgepodge”, an Americanization of the word. Here, the “stew” consists of paper and other mixed media, used in varying degrees to create something completely new from the sum of its parts. Collage as an art form (cutting up paper and other materials and rearranging their parts) has been around since paper itself, but in the 20th century the term was coined by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, two practitioners of the technique, and a legitimate modern art form was born. In this show, the work varies a lot in style and skill, and the result is intriguing.

Modern masters of the form Robert Rauschenberg and Joseph Cornell are high on my personal most-admired list, so among a group of mixed-media works, my eye tends to be drawn first to the more three-dimensional of the pieces. Joy Coffino’s After, is a mini-installation which occupies a small table. The table is covered in red and yellow rose petals surrounding a small box, adorned with an illustration of a female figure in a dress and what looks like the clothing of a wedding cake couple hanging off of it. On top of the box are two more roses, red and yellow. There is something about the scale of this arrangement that makes one think of the symbolic importance of a wedding (or perhaps love and marriage themselves), with the dried flowers and leaves reminding us of the ephemeral nature of it all. The colors and texture of this tableau add a satisfying air of melancholy to the piece overall, and its placement away from the pieces on the wall create a nice sense of dimension for the show overall.

As mentioned before, this work includes artists both established and not, and the range is wide. There are a few artists included whose work shows a more art-therepeutic side, perhaps reflecting a “vision board” aesthetic in which the artist peruses magazines and finds among the type enough interesting letter combinations to pair affirmational sayings (ransom note style) and pictures. Many of the artists presented an artist statement, and it is clear that art has made a difference in each artist’s life. Among the cutouts and borrowed images we also find original, fresh drawings as in Arlaina Ashe’s A Dream State. This piece is rich and layered, including drawings that explore line; single letters that imply rather than give us words; animals; paint, and a variety of implied texture…all on a two dimensional surface. This visual story reads as a poem, rather than a straight prose narrative. Its abstract nature gives me a feeling about the artist rather than explicit details. I have a strong connection to this piece merely because I enjoy the arrangement of its many parts and feel drawn to investigate it further. What Ashe reveals to us is a depth of imagination and willingness to explore all of what that depth entails.

Rick “Pappy” Paprocki takes collage to a completely different place. His Purple Bud is cut vinyl-on-paper and looks almost like a painting or drawing. Pappy cut no less than six colors of vinyl into freeform shapes and lines and managed to arrange them into an abstraction of a vase of flowers that looks to be a direct relation to 20th century modernism, with its minimal background and bold Roy G Biv pallet representing the colors of the rainbow. It feels free yet constrained and thoughtful. With its emphasis on the formal qualities of color, line and shape, it balances nicely with the other works in the show. Space limitations make it impossible to describe all of the interesting work in the show, but works by Melanie LaBorwit, also containing drawing as part of her multi-layered technique, stand out as well.

Although this exhibition has closed, you may find the work of these artists among many others for sale at the OFFCenter cooperative gallery, operating out of the NW corner of the building. It’s worth the trip and your purchases benefit the artists as well as the programming at OFFCenter. Stay and soak in the creative energy and humanity, check the schedule of classes and workshops—all thriving in the hive that is OFFCenter Community Arts Project.

Karen Mazur