An absolute jewel of an exhibition, Cut and Paste: Works of Paper, curated by Athens artist Didi Dunphy, is on view at the Robert C. Williams Museum of Papermaking at Georgia Tech through November 14. The work here, by 11 Georgia artists, has the distinction of being made of and about paper. Paper is still being refined and further developed by scientists and engineers at Georgia Tech, and the paper industry has long been important in the South.
Each artist here uses paper and the qualities inherent to it to articulate the primary concepts of their work. Artists often use paper as a surface on which to express their ideas, but paper is the medium here. These artists have cut, scored, layered, folded, rubbed and cast this substrate in personal ways that reflect their sensibilities.
Imi Hwangbo’s Lepidoptera (2010) is a beautifully crafted work made by layering paper that’s been cut with a floral pattern. Layers upon layers of hand-cut Mylar stacked and pinned together create a luminous work in sculptural relief. Hwangbo’s drawing is a construction that calls up the decoration of Buddhist temple doors and the patterns on kimonos.
Elizabeth Lide’s three-dimensional works are made from paper pulp and pigment cast from objects passed down from her grandparents and great-grandparents. These works — titled Lady Vase, Split Jug, Pitcher and Ice Bucket (all 2018) — recreate domestic objects that have a resonance of history and family. The works are small, all less than 12 inches, and hold the intimacy of treasured household items.
Teresa Bramlette Reeves also explores the domesticity of her past. She reconstructs in tissue and watercolor the clothing of paper dolls that once belonged to her mother. The drawings are folded and bound and exhibited in transparent vitrines that highlight the objectness of paper works that lean toward sculpture. These pieces are nostalgic, but they also present the artist’s history in a form that invites viewers to unravel it.
Hannah Israel’s work is also dimensional. She uses graphite rubbed into the paper, covering it completely. The drawings are crumpled and have the texture of fabric and the patina of lead yet exude a fragile presence. The folds and twists of the paper are as much a form of drawing as any line.
Several more works here are sculptural. Matt Haffner’s cardboard shoes hang from an upper corner of the gallery like those slung over telephone wires, ostensibly indicating that drugs can be brought into an area. It’s unfortunate that these sneakers are not larger; the realistic scale affords them less presence than they might have. They long for a Claes Oldenburgian largeness of scale and form.
Betsy Cain’s dimensional works call up the waterfall brushstrokes of Pat Steir, with drips made by strips of paper cascading down in a vertical flow. Cain’s black-and-white tonal shredded-paper works are vertical and abstract but come from her investigation of nature. They evoke the salt marshes of Savannah; their power resides in their relationship to paint.
Lucha Rodriguez cuts sheets of white paper to make dimensional works with long vertical parts that flow out of curvilinear, energetic and abstract forms. The white paper is back painted with fluorescent color, giving the work a delicate glow.
Dunphy brings her artistic aesthetic of playfulness and recontextualizing form and function to her curation. This exhibition is at its strongest when it adheres to her title, Cut and Paste. It is in the dimensional aspect of paper, where the medium is twisted and cut and reassembled to make art, that viewers find a new inventiveness. The show’s concept suggests Oldenburg’s Ode to Possibilities: “I am for all art that takes its form from the lines of life itself, that twists and extends and accumulates and spits and drips, and is heavy and coarse and blunt and sweet and stupid as life itself.”
It does not get better than that.