Hannelor Baron collages on view at Michael Rosenfeld Gallery

Michael Rosenfeld Gallery presents Hannelore Baron: Collages, a solo exhibition dedicated to the collage work of Hannelore Baron (1926-1987). This exhibition, on view through February 20, features twenty intimate and meticulously-composed collages from the 1980s. In her collage work that masterfully combines experimental printmaking techniques with found materials, Baron condensed a wide range of influences and an expansive concern for the human condition into intimately-scaled expressions of thought and feeling.

Inspired by ancient art, texts and textiles, religious iconography, and the disciplines of anthropology and archeology, among other influences, Baron created an impressive and prolific body of work in collage. She was drawn to the medium, using a wide range of materials, because she enjoyed “the fact that there is the use of actual material that combines to form an image. It is not a painting showing torn cloth and paper, but the very cloth and paper itself.”

She used carefully gathered collage materials to create her deeply personal compositions, drawn to the look and feel of used fabrics. She explained: “The reason I use old cloth…is that the new material lacks the sentiment of the old, and seems too dry and hard in an emotional sense.” 

She further expressed that “the collages are spotted, scribbled and torn, and made of paper and frayed cloth pieces that become ever more worn and precious in a process of recycling where eventually they form a new and complete expression.”

Baron felt that the deliberate use of found materials created a “spontaneous but preserved and cared-for work.” She also incorporated printmaking techniques, including monotypes made with cut-out forms inspired by prehistoric art, that appealed to her for their unpredictable results. Many of the collages feature embellishments of an almost archaic form of pictographic writing which Baron deliberately meant to be ambiguous: “it can represent all that was ever written or just be seen as scratches that mark the otherwise pristine surface of the paper to make it more acceptable to me.”

As a commentary on the universal meaning of language, Baron further explained of this element in the collages: “The writing that covers much of the surface is deliberately illegible because it represents all the words that have been written to tell the unimaginable and explain the unexplainable. The writing also commemorates all that has passed and not been noted, though basically, in my opinion, none of it matters very much since all has remained more or less the same, despite the many meaningful words scattered all about is.”

Hannelore Baron: Collages is accompanied by a fully-illustrated online catalogue, featuring a 1981 interview conducted between Hannelore Baron and her son, Mark Baron. This interview is one of several discussions the two had together that illuminate key components of Baron’s practice in collage and assemblage.

About the Artist
Hannelore Baron (1926-1987)
 is celebrated for her intimate collages and assemblages.

Baron was born Hannelore Alexander in 1926, in the small German town of Dillingen, not far from the French border. She experienced a childhood fractured by violence and displacement. In 1941, the United States consulate granted the Alexander family an emigration quota number, and they were able to make their way to New York. Shortly upon her arrival, Baron enrolled in the Straubenmuller Textile High School in Manhattan. Although she did not study art formally after high school, her acquaintance with John Heliker, who taught painting at Columbia University, enabled Baron to bring her artwork to him for regular critiques. In 1947, she met bookseller Herman Baron; they married in 1950 and had two children, Julie and Mark.

In the late 1950s, Baron started to incorporate collage elements into her painting, and her work was exhibited at various venues in New York. A member of the National Association of Women Artists, she began making assemblages from found wood, driftwood, and wire in 1968, when a volunteer teaching position at the Yonkers Jewish Community Center gave her access to woodworking tools. The following year, she had a solo exhibition at Ulster County Community College in Stone Ridge, New York, and she became the director of the short-lived Tyndall Creek Gallery in Riverdale.

She continued to explore new ways of combining media in the 1970s; Baron developed a sculptural technique for making monotypes by shaping copper into cut-out forms (i.e. heads, figures, birds) and then inking both sides to result in mirror image printing. She also employed a “transfer drawing” technique that was popularized in the 1920s by Paul Klee.

In Baron’s hands, “mixed-media” meant more than the convergence of a variety of materials and approaches in a given work. She had a singular capacity for drawing out the visual, textural, and conceptual continuities among her elements. In her work, a family resemblance is visible among wood and paper, paper and textile, wood and cloth.

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