Max-o-matic on Los Raros & Experimental Collage

Mario Zoots
May 31, 2024
May 31, 2024
Opening of 'Los Raros Las Raras' in Valladolid, Spain

We recently had the pleasure of attending the opening of Los Raros Las Raras: Nuevas Narrativas del Collage Contemporary at the Municipal Exhibition Hall of La Pasión in Valladolid, Spain. Curated by Cless and Máximo Tuja of The Weird Show, this exploration of collage brought together an extraordinary array of artists from diverse disciplines. Our experience at the exhibition was truly inspiring, as it highlighted the innovative narratives that collage can create.

From traditional paper-based collages to sculptures and multimedia installations, the breadth of works showcased not only the versatility of collage but also its capacity to weave complex, layered stories. The strong curatorial vision of Cless and Max was evident in the harmoniously eclectic display, blending historical techniques with contemporary practices across an abundant selection of works.

Following the opening, we spoke with Max about the exhibition to gather his thoughts on collage as a philosophy, the global community, and the future of the art form. The ensuing conversation was rich with insights, shedding light on his curatorial process and the broader implications of Los Raros. Las Raras. Max's reflections underscored the significance of fostering a sense of community among artists and the pivotal role such exhibitions play in nurturing collaborative and creative exchanges.

In what ways do you believe Los Raros and The Weird Show fosters a sense of community among the participating international artists?

Los Raros. Las Raras. marks The Weird Show's 16th exhibition, with its inaugural exhibition debuting in Madrid back in 2011. Since then, TWS has organically cultivated a bond with a group of artists who share our vision of art and collage. This connection has blossomed through exhibitions, workshops, collaborative collage sessions, informal conversations, and interviews. In essence, a small community of artists has formed, intertwined with TWS as both a project and a philosophy.

Over the years, this community has evolved, welcoming new members while some have drifted away. Nevertheless, many of us sense a connection, whether it be through shared experiences, ideas, or simply a mutual affinity for one another.

Los Raros. Las Raras. held a special significance in this regard, as over 25 artists—both local from Valladolid and international—congregated for a weekend of artistic camaraderie. The event fostered abundant interaction, solidifying the bonds among us. The exhibition's opening in Valladolid served as a reunion of sorts, bringing together long standing figures pivotal to TWS's journey alongside a host of new acquaintances we've encountered along the way.

I must note that Collé's hosting of an event the night prior to the opening played a key role in facilitating these interactions. The Collé + TWS event was the kick-off for a weekend that we’ll remember for a long time.

Los Raros. Las Raras
How can exhibitions like this one promote collaboration and exchange of ideas among artists from different cultural and artistic backgrounds?

Even though we feel that the internet brings us together, when people meet in real life something else happens. It’s pretty obvious, I know, but in these shows when you finally get to meet people you’ve been talking online for so long and when you get to see the work you’ve been admiring on Instagram it’s easier and more natural to create deeper and more meaningful connections. So promoting collaboration and exchange is not the main goal of these exhibitions (at least TWS’ exhibitions), but it’s one of the things that has always been part of each of our shows. Collaboration and exchange comes naturally when the right people meet in a proper environment.

Harvard Pole Vault, First Version, 2019
Pelle Cass
How did you go about selecting the artists for Los Raros? What criteria were most important in your decision-making process?

Since the early stages, the aim of the show has been to engage viewers in a dialogue about the essence of collage. It wasn't simply about showcasing our favorite artists; rather, it aimed to take audiences on a journey. This journey begins by exploring the origins of collage rooted in paper, then delves into its connections with various other mediums such as painting, video, sculpture, installation, performance, and music. Through this exploration, our goal is to redefine collage not merely as a medium or technique, but as a unique approach to understanding and interpreting reality.

With this objective in mind, the selection process flowed naturally. Collaborating with Cless, the co-curator of the show, made decision-making straightforward: Whenever a new artist or artwork was added to our spreadsheet, the central question was: How does this contribute to the ongoing conversation about collage? If we couldn't clearly answer this question, the piece or artist didn't make it into the exhibition.

In some instances, the connection to collage was subtle, almost imperceptible, and those were the moments that excited us the most.

The idea that someone might stand before such a piece and ponder, "Why does this qualify as collage?" was the ultimate reward for us as curators of this show.

Our aim is to foster dialogue and encourage people to contemplate something—collage—that's often associated more with aesthetics and technique than with a method of engaging with the world around us.

What challenges did you face in bringing together such a diverse group of artists and artworks? How did you overcome these challenges?

The main challenge we faced was our extremely small team. Cless and I dedicated more than a year to the project, and along the way, María Mozo from Fundación Cultura, Ayuntamiento de Valladolid, joined us, contributing immensely to the show's production. Apart from the installation phase, during which a professional art crew lent their expertise to make everything visually stunning, the rest of the show was handled entirely by us. While curating was a significant aspect of the job, tackling all other responsibilities proved to be the most demanding.

The only way we managed to overcome this challenge was through a ton of hard work over an extended period. I've organized exhibitions in the past, but this one demanded an unprecedented amount of time and effort. The end result is truly remarkable, and I believe every minute spent working on the show was worthwhile, even though it has been exhausting.

How do you see this exhibition influencing future trends in contemporary collage, both locally and internationally?

I'm not really sure if this exhibition will have a significant impact beyond those who experienced it in person. It's possible that its location, distant from the traditional art world hubs, might limit its broader influence. Perhaps if it had taken place in New York, the outcome would be different, but it's hard to say definitively. Consider Aaron Rose's Alleged Gallery; if it had been based in Buenos Aires or Cape Town, today we might not know about the Beautiful Losers artists. Often, where events occur can be nearly as crucial as what occurs.

What kind of feedback have you received from visitors and critics so far? Has any of this feedback influenced your perspective on the exhibition?

All the feedback has been great so far. But I haven’t spoken with many people apart from artists and friends that attended the opening. Now it’s been only 4 days since I got back home from installing and opening so I’m still trying to catch up with my work and other on-going projects.

But my general feeling is that people are loving the show and are into the idea of thinking about collage from another perspective.

The Broken Narrative, 2023
Mario Zoots
The second floor of the exhibition featured a lot of unorthodox collage. How did the notion of collage as philosophy, instead of as medium, influence your curatorial decisions?

Indeed, the second floor offers a dynamic experience integral to the journey we aimed to guide viewers through, elucidating the concept behind our exhibition. The deliberate choice of Todd Bartel's The Artist and Collage in the Field of Landscape No. 1 as the inaugural piece is no coincidence. It pays homage and makes a statement, referencing numerous artists profoundly influential in shaping the realm of collage and art in general. This serves as our starting point, signaling a transition to discussions about the present and future of collage.

On the ground floor, we traverse from more traditional collage works by revered artists like Fred Free to those employing alternative approaches or materials, such as Susana Blasco or Ashkan Honarvar. The pivotal moment arrives with your (Mario Zoots) installation piece, which innovatively utilizes books in a non-traditional manner. From this point, the exhibition ventures into realms less defined by traditional collage, featuring works by artists like Asger Carlsen or Omar Barquet, which extend beyond paper-based compositions.

Ascending to the second floor, the connection to collage becomes even more nuanced. Here, paintings by artists such as Martí Sawe, Nicolás Romero Escalada, and Alvaro Naddeo lack physical cuts yet embody the essence of collage through a conceptual amalgamation of diverse elements, weaving together new narratives. Similarly, the photographic works of Pelle Cass and Michel Lamoller defy traditional collage conventions. While these pieces may not adhere to conventional notions of collage, they exemplify a conceptual approach, where the act of assembly transcends physical boundaries, seamlessly blending disparate elements into cohesive wholes. What truly ignites my enthusiasm is the challenge of discerning these invisible seams, uncovering meticulously arranged elements that seamlessly coalesce to form something entirely new—an artistic invention born from the playful manipulation of collage, whether conscious or unconscious.

Todd Bartel's introductory piece is pivotal in illustrating that collage extends beyond mere physical adhesion; it encompasses a spectrum of techniques and conceptual frameworks that go way beyond paper and glue which had been a guide and inspiration when we curated the show.