To express questions of context, displacement and fragmented identity, what better medium could there be than the nature of assemblage in collage? Image artifacts are laid bare while hypothetical situations construct parallel universes. The familiar falls in rhythm with the bizarre. Framed in conscious composition, such vivid and dreamlike landscapes are manipulated at the hands of North Carolina-based collage artist Bryan Olson.
Olson interprets the remains of vintage magazines and other paper paraphernalia to illustrate a recreated mythology. Exaggerated idols can be found in the most unassuming of inanimate objects, as in the towering pink liquids of Delicious Land; humans are translated into curious anomalies within environments never to be encountered. Even the simplest geometric shapes are given new context. The glory that saturates symbolism in his ordered universe recalls, with little effort, the naivety of space exploration and human pursuit of knowledge. Every image by Olson is characterized by the familiar presence of the Earth or objects of earthly origin, yet deliberate fragmentation makes them feel extraterrestrial. In further emphasis to this refrain, overt images of astronomy intensify Olson’s dialogues with people, places and structures. Yet, by maintaining a rooted sense of natural flow within his collage, Bryan Olson engages with the absurdity of human behavior and the scope of the massive cosmic entities without, on the most part, seeming psychedelic.
Positioning archaeological and behavioural semblances of our history against vast spaces, be they the cosmos or limestone canyons, Olson’s power lies in his surrealistic control of size. Despite the human body visualized in tandem with geological elements that are engorged out of their natural proportions or starkly placed against geometric forms, these human figures never feel out of place. They comfortably inhabit the environments within Bryan Olson’s compositions, fulfilling their granted space and even seeming to dilute the enormity of their accompanying entities. People of Titan (below) does this exceptionally well, using the comic combination of beach-goers against the colossus of Saturn and its moon Titan, responding to theories of discovering life on Titan and our expectations of what constitutes life in our principles.
As a continuation of this narrative, Bryan Olson demonstrates the perceived massivity of human history by repositioning perspective in Post Oscillation (above) to exalt an artifact — a human jaw bone, not even a complete skull — extended in pointed demonstration. Divested from any realistic context and even more compelling due to the grip of the disembodied, white, and masculine hand, this fractured relic still lessens the grandeur of the encompassing geology that we know to be formidable.
When humans are not present within the collage of Bryan Olson, the prominent entities are usually modernist architectural structures. They do not confess to serve any purpose beyond imposing a presence onto their environments — existence only for its own sake. The shapes are familiar and reflect elements of humanity, making each of these ultrastructures, as Olson refers to them, slices of consciousness against the vacuum of space. Architecture serves as character, while Olson claims to “imagine how nature sees man”. True enough, the vigilant eye of ultrastructures #8 reminds of the inability to divest judgement from the human reality.