If you were to try and piece together your memories of childhood, from the cartoon characters who graced your morning television screens and nighttime dreams to the looming fear of the unknown, fully grown world around you, the resulting collage of past and present could look a lot like a Bruce Helander artwork.
Cubist Updraft, 2014 Original acrylic with embellishments on canvas with printed background. 47 ¾ x 39 ¾ in.
The artist has been testing the limits of the collage medium for over thirty years, spending the last ten on a particular method that weaves photographic technology with paper collage, both embellished with acrylic paint and glitter. Dubbing the works "blueprint studies," Helander creates large-scale abstract assemblages that hover between the recycled printed page and the language of paint.
His current exhibition "Icons & Double Takes" melds snippets of vintage Popeye illustrations with original newspaper prints, creating hybrid portraits at once nostalgic and oddly unsettling. "Two Faces Have Eye" is part Popeye, part Francis Bacon, with mirrored and distorted faces guaranteed to haunt any underage cartoon viewer. "Cubist Updraft" is a warped take on Marilyn Monroe's iconic white dress shot, in which the glamour icon's face is replaced with an old man's botched Cubist visage. For those who once found comfort in Popeye, this visually stunning display could very well be a traumatic one.
Like the exhibition title suggests, Helander's work has the uncanny ability to make a viewer do a double take. The mix of familiarity and the unknown follows the artist from his subject matter to his medium. Helander isn't just collaging images into a hybrid form; he's assembling a hybrid mode of what it means to collage. Amidst the stewed memories of childhood and impending fears of adult matters, is the collaged reality of what's left behind. See Helander's twisted take on a childhood classic below and let us know your thoughts.
The exhibition runs until July 5, 2014 at Georgia Scherman Projects in Toronto.