Outside seminal works like those by Robert Rauschenberg and Man Ray, assemblage is a fairly underappreciated medium. The work is often jarring and confrontational, informed by a loosely Dadaistic sensibility but eschewing any comfortable categorization. Or, put more simply by Michael McAlister, whose art is on the cover of this week's CityBeat, 'it isn't pretty and it doesn't tend to sell all that well.'
The thing about assemblage—a kind of multimedia, three-dimensional collage—is that it appropriates familiar objects and images from the world we all inhabit and presents them in a way that's dark, foreign and vaguely disquieting. In many ways, it's the most literal of media because it draws heavily on found objects, but it can also be the most confounding as the viewer is forced to consider the relationship between a collection of seemingly disparate elements. In McAlister's case, those elements tend toward the macabre-animal skulls, small bottles of poison, tiny clocks with atrophied arms-but the meaning isn't so easily compartmentalized.
Speaking to McAlister, you get the sense that he's ultimately an optimist and quite at home in his own strange world. 'That's part of my problem,' he explains. 'I build what I like to see.'
He describes his work as 'a sort of spiritual surrealism, sometimes Gothic in nature, sometimes humorous' but ultimately 'balanced by a certain amount of wit and even hopeful mysticism.' And so his words, like his work, leave us to consider the relationship between disparate things. McAlister's art will be on display at The Andrews Gallery in Leucadia starting Monday, Nov. 23, and running through the month of December. A reception will be held on Saturday, Dec. 5. www.theandrewsgallery.com.