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Assemblage is an artistic form or medium usually created on a defined substrate that consists of three-dimensional elements projecting out of or from the substrate. It is similar to collage, a two-dimensional medium. It is part of the visual arts, and it typically uses found objects, but is not limited to these materials.
The origin of the art form dates to the cubist constructions of Pablo Picasso c. 1912-1914. The origin of the word (in its artistic sense) can be traced back to the early 1950s, when Jean Dubuffet created a series of collages of butterfly wings, which he titled assemblages d'empreintes. However, Marcel Duchamp, Pablo Picasso and others had been working with found objects for many years prior to Dubuffet. Russian artist Vladimir Tatlin created his "counter-reliefs" in the mid 1910s. Alongside Tatlin, the earliest woman artist to try her hand at assemblage was Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, the Dada Baroness. In Paris in the 1920s Alexander Calder, Jose De Creeft, Picasso and others began making fully 3-dimensional works from metal scraps, found metal objects and wire. In the U.S., one of the earliest and most prolific assemblage artists was Louise Nevelson, who began creating her sculptures from found pieces of wood in the late 1930s.
In the 1950s and 60s assemblage started to become more widely known and used. Artists like Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns started using scrappy materials and objects to make anti-aesthetic art sculptures, a big part of the ideas that make assemblage what it is.
The painter Armando Reverón is one of the first to use this technique when using disposable materials such as bamboo, wires, or kraft paper. In the thirties he made a skeleton with wings of mucilage, adopting this style years before other artists. Later, Reverón made instruments and set pieces such as a telephone, a sofa, a sewing machine, a piano and even music books with their scores.
John Chamberlain (1927-2011), a Chicago artist known for his sculptures of welded pieces of wrecked automobiles.
Greg Colson (born 1956), an American artist known for his wall sculptures of stick maps, constructed paintings, solar systems, directionals, and intersections.
Joseph Cornell (1903-1972), Cornell, who lived in New York City, is known for his delicate boxes, usually glass-fronted, in which he arranged surprising collections of objects, images of renaissance paintings and old photographs. Many of his boxes, such as the famous Medici Slot Machine boxes, are interactive and are meant to be handled.
Raoul Hausmann (1886-1971), an Austrian artist and writer and a key figure in Berlin Dada, his most famous work is the assemblage Der Geist Unserer Zeit - Mechanischer Kopf (Mechanical Head [The Spirit of Our Age]), c. 1920.
Romuald Hazoumé (born 1962), a contemporary artist from the Republic of Bénin, who exhibits widely in Europe and the U.K.
George Herms (born 1935), an American artist known for his assemblages, works on papers, and theater pieces.
Louis Hirshman (1905-1986), a Philadelphia artist known for his use of 3D materials on flat substrates for caricatures of the famous, as well as for collages and assemblages of everyday life, archetypes and surreal scenes.
Irma Hünerfauth (born 1907), a German artist, known for her combine paintings, collages and assemblages, scrap sculptures, machines and kinetic art from found objects.
Jasper Johns (born 1930), an American Pop artist, painter, printmaker and sculptor.
Edward Kienholz (1927-1994), an American artist who collaborated with his wife, Nancy Reddin Kienholz, creating free-standing, large-scale "tableaux" or scenes of modern life such as the Beanery, complete with models of persons, made of discarded objects.
Lubo Kristek (born 1943), a Czech artist known for his critical assemblages of bones, traps, material cast out by the sea, waste and mobile phones (destructed in a happening).
Janice Lowry (1946-2009), American artist known for biographical art in the form of assemblage, artist books, and journals, which combined found objects and materials with writings and sketches.
Ondrej Mares (1949-2008), a Czech-Australian artist and sculptor best known for his 'Kachina' figures - a series of works.
Markus Meurer (born 1959), a German artist, known for his sculptures from found objects
Louise Nevelson (1899-1988), an American artist, known for her abstract expressionist "boxes" grouped together to form a new creation. She used found objects or everyday discarded things in her "assemblages" or assemblies, one of which was three stories high.
Wolfgang Paalen (1905-1959), an Austrian-German-Mexican surrealist artist and theorist, founder of the magazine DYN and known for several assembled objects, f.e. Nuage articulé
Noah Purifoy (1917-2004), an African-American visual artist and sculptor, co-founder of the Watts Towers Art Center, and creator of the Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum. He is best known for his assemblage sculpture, including a body of work made from charred debris and wreckage collected after the Watts Riots of August 1965.
Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008), painter and collagist known for his mixed media works during six decades.
Betye Saar (born 1926), American visual artist primarily known for her assemblages with family memorabilia, stereotyped African American figures from folk culture and advertising, mystical amulets and charms, and ritual and tribal objects.
Alexis Smith (born 1949) is an American artist best known for assemblages and installations.
Daniel Spoerri (born 1930), a Swiss artist, known for his "snare pictures" in which he captures a group of objects, such as the remains of meals eaten by individuals, including the plates, silverware and glasses, all of which are fixed to the table or board, which is then displayed on a wall.
Vladimir Tatlin (1885-1953), a Russian artist known for his counter-reliefs--structures made of wood and iron for hanging in wall corners in the 1910s.
Wolf Vostell (1932-1998), known for his use of concrete in his work. In his environments video installations and paintings he used television sets and concrete as well as telephones real cars and pieces of cars.
Gordon Wagner (1915-1987), was a pioneer in American assemblage art, who was known for his bazaar art, painting, poetry and writing.
William C. Seitz: The Art of Assemblage. Exhib. October 4 - November 12, 1961, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1961.
Stephan Geiger: The Art of Assemblage. The Museum of Modern Art, 1961. Die neue Realität der Kunst in den frühen sechziger Jahren, (Dissertation Universität Bonn 2005), München 2008, ISBN978-3-88960-098-1
Sophie Dannenmüller: "Un point de vue géographique: l'assemblage en Californie", in L'art de l'assemblage. Relectures, sous la direction de Stéphanie Jamet-Chavigny et Françoise Levaillant. Presses universitaires de Rennes, collection "Art & société", Rennes, 2011.
Sophie Dannenmüller: "L'assemblage en Californie: une esthétique de subversion", in La Fonction critique de l'art, Dynamiques et ambiguïtés, sous la direction de Evelyne Toussaint, Les éditions de La Lettre volée / Essais, Bruxelles, 2009.
Sophie Dannenmüller: "Bruce Conner et les Rats de l'Art", Les Cahiers du Musée national d'art moderne, Editions du Centre Pompidou, Paris, n° 107, avril 2009, p. 52-75.