Soon after graduating from Yale’s Design program, Ives began making collages. He was obviously aware of the history of collage as defined by Braque and Picasso. Collage became a popular medium for Dadaist, Surrealist, and Cubist. It most often featured strong political content. A sudden flood of imagery via new printing technology provided inspiration and means for this work.
The work was characterized by collecting scraps of printed matter or fabrics or bits of wood and gluing them together. (The word collage comes from the French word “coller,” meaning glue.) These fragments were given an artful and organic structure.
Perhaps the one common thread leading from Braque to Ives was the use of glue. As a student and faculty member, Ives had access to a print shop and proofing press. Large graphic Victorian wood type was in the shop’s collection.
By printing a full alphabet of these large fonts, Ives had material for his collages. Red or black were colors most often used. In contrast to the found object tradition, these were made specifically for collage. Ives’s compositions championed no cause or sentiment. They were simply forms of interest, which he cut into uniform square letter fragments of size. These were assembled and glued onto a precise grid.
In a second step Ives began to deconstruct a wide range of printed matter, such as Victorian broadsides, sheet music, and matchbook covers. These were cut into small triangular pieces of the same size. Increasing the number of parts and decreasing the size of the modules, produced a more intricate tapestry with greater subtly.
Within this series of seeming limitations, Ives found a freedom to create works with multi-layers of visual and emotional changes. There seems to be no history of collage previously made in this labyrinthine manner.
“We can find a cubist’s world in his (Ives) mysterious simplicity only to realize that the shapes do not reconstruct representational objects. The consequence of the visual reconstruction is left to the viewer’s eye and to his fantasies.” — Sewell Sillman