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Bill’s Big Oh’s:

Collage by Bill Russell featured in ‘Road Maps’ Art Show in Pt. Reyes Station

Take a trip out to Point Reyes Station, California from February 2 -28, to Route One Gallery’s 33rd Annual Juried Show and see the Big Oh diptych collage Bill Russell made. It’s featured in a show called ‘Road Maps’ curated by noted art writer DeWitt Cheng. Read all about the how and why of this piece in the Q & A below.

What was your process in making Big Oh’s?
This is an abstract collage, a 2-panel diptych, 32”h. by 46”w. each. It’s something different from me. It’s about how shapes and expressions have meaning….about why squares and circles colliding can suggest conflict and harmony. It’s my road map to embracing opposites, like life and death, male and female, disintegration and individuation. While collage by its nature is happenstance and improvisational, the results seem intentional and personal.

Tell us about the composition?
While the composition uses the grid as an underpinning structure, there is no sequential reading of it. Jagged, black shapes break through and intersect with more lyrical circles, spheres, planets, and balls, representing wholeness.

Looks like you defaced it a bit?
I worked the (paper) surface…defaced it with sandpaper and strikethu’s. I didn’t want the collage imagery to be obvious.

What do you like about these shapes and forms?
I include lots of circular shapes, hence the title ‘Big O’, which is also a pun referencing orgasm. Letterforms make an appearance. For example, I turned sixty when I began the piece, a ‘6’ and a ‘0’ are shown, stacked vertically to obscure a literal reading….so that the quality and shape of the letters are more evident. It’s also the iconic nature of these shapes that interest me.

There are several figures of women in the piece?
There is an obvious repetition of the female form, which is my way of acknowledging the importance of the muse. While the main female form may seem a bit imposing with her sharp, claw-like fingers, it reflects a kind of creative heroism to me…naked and unashamed. I honor the archetype, as would Gaston Lachaise in one of his sculptures. I juxtapose other images of women that are torn from fashion catalogues and kitschy 50’s magazines.

Looks like you appropriated from other artists?
There are references to some of the work of male painters of Ab Ex, like Kenneth Nolan, Arshile Gorky and Hans Hoffman. But most notable are the appropriations I take from Pablo Picasso and his painting ‘Guernica,’ with references to the horse, hand and lamp in his interpretation of the bombing of this Spanish town by fascist warplanes. Maybe this is just an attempt to conjure some Picasso mojo for myself.

Why the thunderbird?
With the image of the Kwakiutl Thunderbird totems, produced by Pacific Northwest Coast Indigenous peoples, I see as a symbol of summoning the deep power of my art production.

Show Information:

Gallery Route One, 11101 CA-1, Point Reyes Station, CA 94956  directions
Show runs February 2–25, 2018, with a reception on Saturday, February 3, 3pm to 5pm

Find more of Bill’s art at