The Gestalten's new book on collage, Cutting Edges, aims to collect the best of contemporary collage work. What started as research for a show has ended up in a over 200 pages document stuffed to the max with images from a large group of artists.
One wonders, then, why it looks like the work of only a handful of artists. The extremely homogenous look of the included work leads one to think that the selection follows a very limited set of preferences, and/or that it is even commissioned. The fact that a lot of the work is from 2010 suggests it.
Illustration is a more fitting term for this work, as style and trend are more apparent than methodology and, behold - content. Yes, nostalgia is a contemporary concern, but when even the digital collages are saturated with 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s thoughtless nostalgia, it is hardly an expression of our time. There is also an annoyingly large number of work resembling classic collage artists from the past, with no mention why or if that is the intention.
Therefore, sadly, the book's title must be understood only literally. The fetish of yellowed paper, torn edges, black and white images juxtaposed with bright colors, small, absurdist jokes, fancy geometrics and slightly risqué images belittles collage to mere formal exercises for the contemporary designer - and nothing resembling the metaphysical awareness of collage as an actual way to open new doors of visual language, to communicate, to capture something of this time with current means.
Out of the several books on collage that has come out the last few years, this one is remarkably unoriginal. I suggest getting the ones from Thames & Hudson, Black Dog Publishing, or Merrel / New Museum, all named Collage something-or-other, then get the books on the individual artists. Because I have yet to find THE essential book on collage. Maybe Phaidon should step up to the plate and release Vitamin C for collage?