“Collage and sculpture are basically the same thing,” says artist Jon Farber. “It’s just that one’s 2-D and one’s 3-D.”
As a student in the University of Nevada, Reno’s bachelor of fine arts program, Farber focused on sculpture— particularly found object-oriented artwork. But when he graduated in 2009, he suddenly found himself with less access to a sculpture lab, so he started gravitating toward collage.
“It’s like sculpture, but there’s no need to do any welding,” he says.
His new exhibition, Reconnaissance Thoughts, at the Bibo Three Gallery, features small collages of images pulled from magazines and other sources, as well as large acrylic paintings based on collages. For both the large and small pieces, Farber culls images from a variety of sources: old record covers, back issues of National Geographic, children’s books, World War II propaganda poster reproductions, advertisements, and an encyclopedia from the 1940s.
“It’s just whatever calls out to me,” says Farber. He collects images everywhere he goes, and when he thinks he has enough, lays them all out, and begins experimenting with new combinations.
As part of his day job, Farber spends long hours alone, driving a truck, and he says he’s often amused by the way his mind wanders and the unexpected leaps of logic and association his brain takes. That sensation of the brain wandering through unusual associations is something he tries to convey in his artwork.
One of his smaller collages, “Tuna Time,” features singer Michelle Phillips, of The Mamas & the Papas fame, swimming, her head just above water, and her mouth open, as if taking a gulp of air, but behind her mouth, Farber placed a retro-looking can of tuna.
“She just looked hungry for a can of tuna,” he says. Some of the collages feature dozens and dozens of images, but this “Tuna Time” is just the two images.
“There wasn’t really anything else it needed,” says Farber. “It just looked done as soon as I put the two together.”
Many of the pieces, like “Tuna Time,” are funny.
“I try to make myself laugh,” says Farber. “It’s one reason I do this.”
The larger pieces, like “Dizzy Grizzly,” are bright, colorful acrylic paintings that recreate collages over high-contrast color patterns. The underlying patterns create a sense of eye-popping repetition, with the collages splayed across and interweaving with the patterns.
The bright colors and use of images culled from commercial sources—“Dizzy Grizzly” prominently features an image of Br’er Rabbit taken from a Disney read-along book and record—place Farber’s work squarely in the tradition of Pop Art, but the bright patterns and overlapping images create intricate compositions that keep the viewer’s eyes moving.
Farber says his primary concern is visual composition, but he likes the variety of interpretations his works attract. The jarring, incongruous combinations of sometimes familiar images elicit a variety of responses.
“I like people to make their own interpretations to it,” he says. “I like to see what people bring to it, and what they take away.”