Sculpting Glossary

What is Assemblage?

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Written By Harriet Maher

Are you interested in learning more about the artistic practice of assemblage? Do you want to know how this unique approach to art-making can help you express your creativity and connect with your audience?

In this article, we’ll explore the meaning of assemblage, its history, and its significance in the world of art.

Whether you’re an aspiring artist, a fan of contemporary art, or simply curious about new artistic techniques, this article will provide you with a comprehensive understanding of assemblage and its importance in the art world.

We’ll be covering the following topics (click on a bullet point to jump to that section):

What is Assemblage in Art?

Assemblage or construction is an old process. An assemblage is an art form in which different objects are generally found and comprised together in such a way that it forms a new object.

The objects can be natural or artificial. Stones, wood, paper, and metal objects are included in it.

It started nearly 100 years ago when Picasso made the first construction of this type.

In 1961, the key exhibition of this form of artistic art was exhibited at the Modern Art Museum of New York and was titled “The Art of Assemblage.”

This exhibition established this form of art as a global phenomenon and praised many well-known artists like Picasso, Georges Braque, Marcel Duchamp, and Jean Dubuffet.

Examples of Assemblage

Here are some examples of assemblage artworks:

1. “Bicycle Wheel” by Marcel Duchamp

Marcel Duchamp’s “Bicycle Wheel” (1913) is considered one of the earliest examples of assemblage art.

He combined a bicycle wheel and a stool, challenging traditional ideas of art and composition.

2. “Gift” by Man Ray

Man Ray’s “Gift” (1921) is an assemblage artwork where an iron with nails attached to it is placed on a wooden board.

This piece is known for its playful transformation of an everyday object into a sculpture.

3. “Homage to New York” by Jean Tinguely

Jean Tinguely’s “Homage to New York” (1960) was a self-destructing kinetic sculpture assemblage created for an art performance. The artwork featured various mechanical components and objects that eventually caused the sculpture to disintegrate.

4. “The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations’ Millennium General Assembly” by James Hampton

James Hampton’s “The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations’ Millennium General Assembly” (c. 1950s-1960s) is a monumental assemblage artwork made from found objects, including old furniture, aluminum foil, and cardboard. Hampton believed he was creating a religious artifact.

5. “The Shadow” by Louise Nevelson

Louise Nevelson’s “The Shadow” (1957) is a towering black assemblage sculpture made from wooden fragments and objects she collected.

Nevelson often used monochromatic paint to unify the disparate components into a cohesive whole.

Why is Assembling Important in Art?

Assemblage gives a new look to already present materials. The broken or unworthy materials are combined to give them an artistic and new look.

Because it often incorporates artifacts and non-art objects, many assemblage arts aim to challenge the original.

To further explore assemblage, we also recommend this video:

Difference Between Assemblage and Construction in Sculpture

Assemblage and construction in sculpture are connected.

Assemblage is putting different objects together, and construction means building a new and composed form out of it.

Artists do two things while making a new sculpture.

First, they find the objects and materials needed to put them together, and second, they turn them into new forms.

So, putting different kinds of shapes together is assemblage — while making new shapes and forms from these objects is known as construction.

Tips for Assembling in Sculpture

The most important tip for assemblage involves gathering different objects and materials.

Since you are the artist, it is your creation, so you can use any objects you like and then combine them into a single and refined form.

To further explore tips on assemblage, we also recommend this video by La Wilson:

Popular Assemblage Sculpture Artists

Marcel Duchamp

Marcel Duchamp created Sculptures from mundane objects, and it led to Assemblage art.

He made a bicycle wheel out of steel and made it stand on the four-leg stool in the year 1913.

Raul Housemann

He took objects like a watch mechanism, ruler, tin cup, and tape measure, attached them to the wooden head, and made a great Sculpture in 1920.

Meret Oppenheim

Her revolutionary designs by Elsa Schiaparelli have provoked endless imitation and extermination, from Tokyo Kumagai’s edible shoes to Lady Gaga’s Meat Dress.

Assemblage sculpture has revolutionized the field of sculpture, and it provided new depths to the already vast field of sculpting.

What is the process of assemblage?

Assemblage is an artistic process that involves collecting and arranging found objects or materials to create a new work of art. The artist combines these disparate elements in a way that transforms them into a unified whole, often imbuing the work with personal meaning or social commentary.

What is the purpose of assemblage?

The purpose of assemblage is to create something new and unexpected by bringing together disparate elements in an artistic composition. By combining found objects in new and innovative ways, artists can create works that challenge conventional notions of beauty, meaning, and artistic expression.