I consider myself to be a more-educated-than-average jazz fan, especially in regards to the early New Orleans stuff. (I even did a report on Louis Armstrong in the fourth grade!) So how am I just now learning of Louis Armstrong’s cool collage work? Ken Burns, why hast thou forsaken me with thine sentimental and insufficient documentary series?!?
Louis started working in collage some time in the 1950s. Originally, he created them on paper and hung them in his den, but his wife wasn’t too keen on them, and he had to get creative. A dedicated recorder of his own performances, Armstrong always had a handy supply of reel-to-reel tapes with him everywhere he went, and the tape boxes were a perfect surface medium for his hobby. They weren’t really intended to be shown—they were his personal scrapbook, and the Louis Armstrong Archives at Queens College in Flushing, New York has about 1,000 of these collages on about 500 tape boxes.
Each piece pays close attention to balance—it feels cohesive and organic, and the indiscreet use of scotch tape “shows the seams,” so to speak. I like the use of color and combination of source materials—photos, news clippings, correspondence, concert programs, his own handwritten captions, and even bits of his beloved Swiss Kriss Herbal Laxatives packaging. I also like Armstrong’s use of his own image in his work; there’s something intimate about an artist reflecting on their own celebrity.
I’m getting a very Robert Rauschenberg vibe. You?
Via The Paris Review