Lost but Found: Assemblage, Collage and Sculpture, 1920-2002

Lost but Found: Assemblage, Collage and Sculpture, 1920-2002 showcases nearly 70 assemblages, collages, ready-mades and abstract sculptures from the Norton Simon Museum’s extensive collection of modern and contemporary art. The exhibition includes works spanning more than 80 years, from 1920 to 2002, by 30 prominent European and American artists including Pablo Picasso, Kurt Schwitters, Joseph Cornell, Louise Nevelson, Robert Rauschenberg, Ed Kienholz, Bruce Conner and Tom Wesselmann.

Lost but Found  explores the myriad ways artists take commonplace, often discarded objects and materials and transform them into art. These works are largely assembled rather than painted, drawn or carved, and they are constructed either entirely or in part from nontraditional art materials. The exhibition surveys the rich history and aesthetics of assemblage and collage from 1920 to 2002. Arranged in loose chronological order, Lost but Found  features important examples from the Museum’s permanent collection by some of the most central figures working in collage and assemblage over the last century.

French artist Jean Dubuffet coined the term “assemblage” in 1953, but the traditions of using found objects in art and collage can be traced to the first decades of the 20th century. The birth of modern collage occurred in 1912 when Cubist artist Pablo Picasso incorporated a fragment of oilcloth in a painting to simulate chair-caning and surrounded the piece with hemp rope. The integration of non-traditional materials in a work of art was at first a radical act defying convention, but it was only a matter of time before other artists adopted collage as a vital new means for expression. Collage was taken a step further when artists began assembling three dimensional collages or “assemblages.” The tradition of assemblage advanced with the avant-garde artists of the 1950s and continues its evolution to the present.