I love the subtle cleverness of this collage by Black Mountain College student, Faith Murray Britton (Charleston, SC 1897–1984 Taylors, SC). Working with only two materials—a clipping from a magazine and a few dried leaves—Britton appropriates and subverts the latter to reveal its illusory qualities. This work is organized around the dramatic diagonal slant of the glassware in the image and matched by the tilt of the dried leaves adhered to the surface of the paper.
When Josef Albers arrived at Black Mountain College to head the arts department, he adapted his courses and teaching approach from the Bauhaus in Germany, where he had been an instructor. The purpose of his popular matière study assignment, like this one by Britton, was to investigate the surface qualities of certain materials in relation to others. The exercise was open-ended to allow for a wide range of responses that were afterwards rigorously critiqued in the classroom.
In this particular example, Britton exposes the shared flatness of the magazine clipping and the dried leaves. At the same time, this collage serves to distinguish illusion from reality. This friction is evident in the way that the three glasses and the shallow serving bowl cannot actually hold the leaves pasted on top of them. However, the interaction between the leaves and the glassware in the image beneath serves another purpose. They become a graph or diagram of the design of the image, which is echoed in the subsequent placement of leaves outside the bounds of the image. Clearly Britton demonstrates how the combination of two different materials can produce new possibilities for learning and knowing about them individually.
— Corey Loftus, 2021 fall curatorial fellow