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Marriage is an exhibition of nine “Film Portraits” made between 2009 and 2011 by the British conceptual artist John Stezaker (b. 1949). The artist mined boxes of old photographs, specifically vintage film stills and publicity shots of classic movie stars from Hollywood’s Golden Age to create a new series of collages that are simultaneously whimsical and ironic.
Like the Cubist artists before him, Stezaker is explicit about both his use of appropriated material and his method of construction. By carefully splicing an actor's face from a bygone era and then placing it over the portrait of another, he creates a caricature of the original personalities. In some cases, the artist combined a photograph of a man and a woman to create a “marriage”; in others, he uses two men, or two women. The latter collages describe his He and She series, which were a direct outgrowth of the original Marriage series.
Since the scale of each of the portraits united is similar, we read each collage as a unique face. Rather than an ordinary flat photographic representation, Stezaker’s faces are dynamic. Amusing and clever, each image both complements and contradicts the historic portraits on which they are based. By playing with the scale, pose and character, not to mention the gender of the individuals represented, Stezaker gives his modern icons a truly surreal yet human quality.