currency collages by mark wagner currency collages by mark wagner
dec 16, 2013

currency collages by mark wagner

currency collages by mark wagner
image courtesy of mark wagner

 

 

 

using myriad fragments of legitimate monetary bills, american artist mark wagner intricately crafts collages that speak to the cultural, economic, and political roles that currently play in contemporary society. a blade and glue are the artist’s primary tools, as he cuts and tears away morsels of U.S. paper dollars and reorganizes them into complex and ornate visuals. materializing portraits, landscapes, and historical scenes, wagner transforms the icon of capitalism into representational snapshots, from the story of the founding fathers, to mythological tales. asking the observer to question its influence and relationship to art, the assemblages steeped in symbolism and concept simultaneously prove that a single dollar bill is a ripe aesthetic medium. wagner’s work was recently exhibited at miami project art fair, a satellite event coinciding with art basel miami beach 2013.

 

 


mark wagner – money is material
video courtesy of the avant/garde diaries

 

 


‘toll bridge/ troll bridge or GW on the GWB’, 2013
currency collage on panel
36 x 28 inches
image © designboom

 

 


‘toll bridge/ troll bridge or GW on the GWB’ detail
image © designboom

 

 


overgrown empire, 2013
currency collage on panel
84 x 28 inches
image © designboom

 

 


detail of wagner’s currency collage of the mona lisa
image courtesy of mark wagner

 

 


a money portrait to abraham lincoln
image courtesy of mark wagner

 

 


detail of a collage from the ‘washington at large’ series

 

 


detial view from the ‘washington at large’ series

 

 


detail of a lion’s face made from currency

 

  • He needs to start thinking about the bill as a work of art, this is the extent to which he has benefited from it. He tells himself it is merely material because he is an immature artist who cannot begin purely inside himself. He has to rebound off of another. Unless he says the artist was an inspiration, he has cheated himself and exploited the designer of the bill.

    Ernst Breithaupt says:
  • I think Ernst is being a little too ernest, and also unfair.
    All artists rebound off each other, and the world around them. Be it subliminally, or consciously, we are all influenced by the imagery we see everyday. It is to Wagner’s credit that he has taken an everyday object and created something from it that its 19th century designer(s) never imagined. It is a point of departure.
    This is nothing immature about Wagner’s meticulously executed collages, which elevate the craft of decoupage to an art form, with have some very witty and thought provoking messages woven in.
    The dollar bill is money – First and foremost. Wagner uses it as a material, and has cleverly managed to extract a large and derived palette from the way he cuts and arranges its components. Given the way in which he dissects the notes and uses them to create the gradations/shading, it is unsurprising it becomes a ‘merely a material’ in his mind – It has become an abstract. He does not use the note whole, but fragments, that he himself defines. He is doing far more with it than Warhol did with soup cans labels, and I don’t recall Andy Warhol waxing long and lyrical about the the artist/graphics designer who produced the label he used almost unaltered.
    I believe only the portrait of Washington on the bill can be attributed to an known artist – Gilbert Stuart – and it could be argued that the real art in the note is the way the unknown engraver translated that oil painting into lines of hatching and contours that give the illusion of three dimensions and are also hard for forgers to copy. The design was most likely a collaborative work, and its designers did not regard themselves as artists, but craftsmen.
    The idea that you can berate Wagner for not saying he was inspired by an unknown 19th century engraver or typesetter is farcical. He was inspired by the dollar bill, and its symbolism as one of the mosts widely circulated images every produced. If you are inspired by an object, you are are inspired by the person who created it by default. Since that designer is unknown(?) then to name the note suffices.
    There has been no attempt to hide what these collages are made from. Surely only artists who copy ideas and images from others and then tries to hide/deny their inspiration could be described as exploitative?
    I would politely suggest that is not Wagner who is being immature…

    TheCat says:
  • Mr. Breithaupt needs a refresher in art history or have his eyes examed. As a retired social studies teacher and a now a part-time history professor at our local community college, Mark Wagner’s art is more than a godsend! Countless enlightening discussions on social, political and economic issues begin (and sometimes end) with Mr. Wagner’s art. Despite the design dates of 1957 and 1964 respectively on the current US one dollar bill, I suspect Mr. Wagner’s work will be considered timeless. It has real magic!
    Thank you.

    MHB says:
  • ernst, take it easy.

    Iris Fingerhut says:

have something to add? share your thoughts in our comments section below.

comments policy
LOG IN
designboom's comment policy guidelines
generally speaking, if we publish something, it's because we're genuinely interested in the subject. we hope you'll share this interest and if you know even more about it, please share! our goal in the discussion threads is to have good conversation and we prefer constructive opinions. we and our readers have fun with entertaining ones. designboom welcomes alerts about typos, incorrect names, and the like.
the correction is at the discretion of the post editor and may not happen immediately.

what if you disagree with what we or another commenter has to say?
let's hear it! but please understand that offensive, inappropriate, or just plain annoying comments may be deleted or shortened.

- please do not make racist, sexist, anti-semitic, homophobic or otherwise offensive comments.
- please don't personally insult the writers or your fellow commenters.
- please avoid using offensive words, replacing a few letters with asterisks is not a valid workaround.
- please don't include your website or e-mail address in your comments for the purpose of self-promotion.
- please respect jury verdicts and do not discuss offensively on the competition results
(there is only one fist prize, and designboom usually asks renown professionals to help us to promote talent.
in addition to the awarded designs, we do feel that almost all deserve our attention, that is why we publish
the best 100-200 entries too.)

a link is allowed in comments as long as they add value in the form of information, images, humor, etc. (links to the front page of your personal blog or website are not okay). unwelcome links (to commercial products or services of others, offensive material etc. ) will be redacted. and, ... yes, spam gets banned. no, we do not post fake comments.

PRODUCT LIBRARY

a diverse digital database that acts as a valuable guide in gaining insight and information about a product directly from the manufacturer, and serves as a rich reference point in developing a project or scheme.

art news