Ideas, Messages and Materials | Joseph Hammer


Your art has captivated people for a number of years. Why do you think that is?
It makes me feel good, and very gratified, that some people like what I create. I can't speak for them, so I can only guess that many of the same things that inspired me might resonate with them: books, reading, nostalgia, handwriting, alphabets, history and so forth. And on a different level, I suppose my compositions themselves appeal to some people, regardless of any content or "message" attributed (or not) to them. What pleases me especially is when someone who doesn't necessarily like contemporary, abstract art likes one of my pieces.

Has your art, or your approach to it, changed over the years? What has not changed? Yes, it has gotten a bit more involved, more complicated at times. And often larger. More colorful. And sometimes with a message implied. Yet I still harken back to simplicity most of the time. And I'm still very linear.

Besides the mixed media collages you are known for, tell us about the less known, less often shown, assemblages that you create. Also: Where do you get your three-dimensional objects for these works, and how do you adhere them--(some are pretty heavy)? I love working with these three-dimensional projects and enjoy presenting them, often old items, in a variety of ways. I find them in my personal hordings (I'm a pack rat) and at junk shops. I use an adhesive called E-6000 to secure them. I have to do this outside; the skunk-smelling fumes are supposedly carcinogenic. I was once told that it's a substance used to mount motors in place!

Do the assemblages carry a different message than your collages? Usually not. Many are purely compositional projects, often for my own amusement. In general, they suggest a bit of wistfullness, retrospection. I'm really a sentimental fool.

Let's talk about the big picture, including the future. What themes occupy your thoughts? What or who inspires you right now? Where do you get your ideas? What lies ahead? You never know about the future, do you? I certainly don't. But themes that interest me continue to revolve around pattern and shape. I've gotten more interested in Braque lately, and last year I started working with color spectrums and grids. Coincidentally, the final masterpiece of Elsworth Kelly, a chapel-like building, opened in Austin this winter, and that has inspired me to do more color related studies. Ideas? They spring up, like weeds, and suddenly. I can't explain it.

If you were to choose places whose museums you'd most like to visit, where would they be? Well, as far as collages are concerned, I think the best places are Germany, where so much of the early work took root, by artists such as Schwitters, Herzfeld, Hannah Hoech, and others. We must remember that DADA, mainly based in Germany, raised collage to an art form. But a lot of Schwitters' work also ended up in England, because he fled there. And I would add Austria for many reasons, not the least of which is my continuing interest in the Wiener Werkstaette (Vienna Workshop) movement of the early 20th Century. It still influences my work.

– June 2018



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