Collecting the Collected: Charles Wilkin
The way images move through a photo studio, it makes sense to put a collage show in one in order to symbolically organize all the flashing fragments. Picture Farm, one such studio, will be housing All That Remains, a group exhibit presented by the local, yet nomadic project called Ugly Art Room.
Before the dreamlike and poetic mosaics land on the studio walls, they’ve collected in the Greenpoint apartment of the show’s curator, and one of 28 participating artists, Charles Wilkin. The stored works seem to mesh naturally with Wilkin’s own workspace and personal collection.
“My discovery of collage was accidental” the artist told Greenpointers. “Running late to a drawing class with an armful of photos from the previous class – but without pencil, paper, or drawing materials – my teacher suggested that I just do collages.” Wilkins is also a graphic designer and that history honed his understanding of the medium. “It’s all scraps that came from the graphic arts, reassembled by artists. And that’s where the turning point came for me. A career commercial artist, good at it but almost bored with design, I took the collages I was doing at home and was able to apply them in a design setting.”
It’s just that blurring space between “fine” art and illustration that this collection makes work. “David Plunkert was the first artist I saw that was doing that similar style that was illustrative without being illustration”. Wilkin’s casual and informed manner echoes All That Remains’ mix of canny and imaginative creativity. “Design, illustration, typography, to me its all art. It’s all composition. One thing that collage did do was free me from the constant problem solving of making a logo.”
Talking to Wilkin in his home and around his own collection and studio space, it’s easy to see why he sticks with the physicality of the LIFE magazines and discarded photo albums he’s gathered over the years. Only a few pieces in the show are digitally produced and he reminds himself that the work is reused print. “I love the tactility of paper and the physical act of cutting, gluing, and arranging paper. On the other hand digital collage frees the image from the size restraint of the found object. It can be bigger.”
“With the norm of sound bites and the world shrinking and cultures clashing together this show becomes more relevant. I wanted to show what’s going on now but the work I found was never overtly political.” Looking at the work only bolsters Wilkin’s excitement for what he has unearthed. He’s done a good job at collecting the collected.
“I think this kind of work has always been on the fringe, so now is a good time for the show. When you look at the work here, even though there are different styles, there is an underlying theme of mystery and uncertainty that’s very relevant to what’s going on now. It pulls from the past to analyze the present so that hopefully we can move to the future. That’s the beauty of collage.”