From William Campbell Contemporary Art for the Exhibition “At Play in the Utopian Matrix 2001
Cecil Touchon continues to explore the realm of collage from his studio in the central Mexico mountains overlooking the colonial city of Cuernavaca and “El Popo”, the area’s resident volcano.
Much of his imagery is derived from Touchon’s fascination with the differences between how the modernist ideal has evolved in Mexico and the United States and the resulting variations of a modernist aesthetic.
Touchon’s primary exploration of collage is contained within a series of works entitled the Fusion Series began in 1983 as a sort of visual diary. Comprising more than 1,750 works to-date, the series has explored a variety of styles throughout the years but is currently most influenced by his life in Cuernavaca.
Touchon’s serene and abstract works fuse drawing, painting and collage. Several small-scale works from the Fusion Series as well as his large-scale Post Dogmatist paintings of collage and acrylic on wood and canvas will be on view. Many of these large works are painted versions of his Fusion Series collages. Viewers will also be treated to other collage experiments as Touchon expands into collage poetry and sound collage.
The Fusion Series has been described as Touchon’s ongoing obsession with manipulating color and shape. He constructs his compositionally engaging works from materials that are readily available to him. His reaction to life in Mexico richly infiltrates his newer works. Touchon describes the myriad of buildings whose walls and roofs are painted to reflect the type of business conducted within. Panels of billboards that have run beyond their contract time are rearranged to become unreadable rather than taken down, although one can still discern the products from the recognizable colors and type styles. Many of Touchon’s current works are constructed by cutting up and rearranging lettering from wrestling posters that he finds pasted, one on top of the other, sometimes an inch thick, throughout his neighborhood.
The way in which Touchon draws inspiration from the Mexican culture and tropical environment is evidenced in PDP #233. Remnants of the Mexican vegetation, earth, sky and culture are stunningly married in this large 51” x 57 ½” painting of acrylic on screwed together wood panels.
Seemingly random and abstract, Touchon’s thoughtful collages liberate the viewer from everyday meanings so that they are left to consider the visual impact of his work. He enjoys removing things from their original context, rendering a work ambiguous in its meaning. Though they appear spontaneous, each work has a keen sense of balance and color. There is a logical and thought-out harmony inherent in his collage work. Because Touchon’s environment triggers his visual vocabulary, one feels a sense of the local rhythm when considering a body of his work.
Although we are bombarded daily with volumes of fragmented and disconnected information, Touchon points to an underlying harmony at work. Through the seemingly haphazard, yet controlled medium of collage, Touchon is effectively able to express this view of the world. His current artistic movement is towards simplicity. He is governed by a desire to be strait forward and to refine his expression to an essence that is visually concrete.
Touchon is drawn to paper that is weathered and shows a history of handling and he enjoys pondering the histories of people he doesn’t know contained within his works. There is a quality of “nostalgic mystery” that Touchon seeks to convey in his works.
Understanding Touchon’s work also asks that one explore the tension between the human sense of perfection and machine perfection. The hand-made quality of human perfection, with its quirkiness and lack of exactness is the “domain of art”, says Touchon, while the exactness and precision of machine perfection is the domain of applied design. The artists of the Neo-Plastic or De Stijl movement who aimed for a machine-like perfection of purity compositionally inspire Touchon’s work. However, Touchon’s work reintroduces the human element, the element of spirit.
Examples of Touchon’s collage poems and sound collages will round out the exhibition. A member of the Massurrealist Society, Touchon is fascinated by the impact of the media on our culture, particularly the Internet. He constructs his collage poetry from the volumes of email correspondence he is always engaged in and alters bits of audio he pulls from the Internet to create his sound collages.
Cecil Touchon’s works are included in important private and public collections including HBO, IBM, J.P. Morgan Bank, Citibank, United Airlines, American Airlines and Neiman Marcus. Touchon was born in Austin and studied at both North Texas State University and the University of Texas at Arlington. Touchon has exhibited with William Campbell Contemporary Art since 1984. His work is also being exhibited in New York and at the 8th Salon International du Collage Contemporain de Paris – Paris, France.