Posted by Deanna Sirlin on Tue, Nov 9, 2010 at 1:29 PM

A hundred years ago, Pablo Picasso glued an image of chair caning onto one of his cubist oil paintings and collage was born. Actually, that might be oversimplifying it just a bit. The technique of collaging (the process of making new compositions from existing images cut and pasted together on a surface) has been around for centuries. But the origin of collage in its modern fine art sense is generally attributed to Picasso.

Artists Mario Petrirena and Daniel Biddy are currently showing collages at Sandler Hudson Gallery and Barbara Archer Gallery, respectively. For Imagining Memory, Petrirena, a longtime Atlanta artist, exhibits small black-and-white collages made from old photos in the gallery’s project space. Biddy, in his first solo show Out of Context, has taken over Archer’s gallery with colorful collages large and small.

Petrirena started creating collages as a way to share his work, turning them into postcards he’d send to his friends and family. The artist draws on all kinds of images in his work: “I’ve always collected images in a very informal way. I put them on the walls of my studio, in my sketchbooks or journals. I am very democratic in my collecting, the images range from a postcard of the first drawings I ever saw by Van Gogh to ball gowns.” He created his body of new work from found photographs — a group of wedding pictures from the 1940s. When Petrirena and his family emigrated to the United States form Cuba, many precious family images were lost. For Imagining Memory, he’s cut photos of another family into circles and overlapped them, splitting or removing some of the faces in the process. By depersonalizing the images, Petrirena both reveals their universality and allows them to evoke the family albums he does not possess.

The use of circles in Imagining Memory arose naturally from Petrirena’s collection of images. “I work intuitively,” he says. “I don’t question what attracts me to certain images. I find myself gathering certain images, I trust my intuition, and I just collect. For example, I found myself collecting images with circles in them. It took me several years of looking before the circles started showing up in the work. There were signs of them gradually and then there were circles everywhere.”

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