Since the late 19th century, photographers have honed their craft to expose social and political truths existing in their surroundings. The use of collage has expanded on this exploration by allowing artists to reconfigure, cut and fragment photos to create entirely new images and conversations
Utopia/Dystopia: Construction and Destruction in Photography and Collage, a new exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston (MFAH), features 150 years of collage, as well as photomontages and moving images, to present “alternative realities” of utopia or dystopia.
The exhibit has more than 100 works, from as early as the 1860s to the present, with origins spanning Asia, Africa, the Americas and Europe. The show is organized around three themes: urban visions, figure construction and the quest for a utopian world, and contains pieces drawn from four museums and private holdings.
Utopia/Dystopia is the brainchild of MFAH associate photography curator, Yasufumi Nakamori. “In breaking and reassembling found images to create a new vision, artists have found collage and montage ideal for expressing utopian dreams and dystopian anxieties,” said Nakamori. Featured artists include El Lissitzky, Okanoue Toshiko, Herbert Bayer, Matthew Buckingham, Tom Thayer, among others, and although their work stems from different artistic movements—from Dada to Constructivism—all the artists embrace the compelling process of photography construction and destruction.