‘It’s Kind of a Ludicrous Proposition’: Artist Elliott Hundley on What Opera and Collage Have in Common

As part of a collaboration with Art21, hear news-making artists describe their inspirations in their own words.

Production still from the Art21 "Extended Play" film, "Elliott Hundley: Evoking Emotions." © Art21, Inc. 2015.

To celebrate its 40th anniversary, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles is handing artists the keys to the kingdom. Or at least, the keys to the storage facility. For the first time, the museum is inviting local artists to develop exhibitions from its permanent collection of more than 7,000 objects to reflect the four decades since its founding.

The first intervention is led by multimedia artist Elliott Hundley, who will curate a show dedicated to exploring the art of collage. (The exhibition series, called “Open House,” is notably sponsored by Napster founder Sean Parker and his wife Alexandra.)

Production still from the Art21 "Extended Play" film, "Elliott Hundley: Evoking Emotions." © Art21, Inc. 2015.

Production still from the Art21 “Extended Play” film, “Elliott Hundley: Evoking Emotions.” © Art21, Inc. 2015.

In an exclusive interview for Art21’s “Extended Play” series in 2015, Hundley describes his detailed cut-and-paste tableaux as “imaginary operas” intended to elicit strong emotions from the viewer.

“One of the things I find appealing about opera is it’s kind of a ludicrous proposition,” he tells Art21. “I’m interested in staging… I use stories to get the picture started.” The stories Hundley tells are drawn in large part from his family and friends, whom he casts as models in impromptu photography sessions. “What’s important to me about including my friends and family is that it raises the stakes,” he explains. “It’s people with identities.”

Hundley creates his own drama by combining his photography with pages from magazines, using bulletin boards as a canvas on which to juxtapose and mash up the images. Collage, he says, “is resonant because it is made of the stuff we see everyday… it reflects our reality.”


Watch the full segment, which originally appeared as part of the “Art in the Twenty-First Century” television series on PBS, below. “Open House: Elliott Hundley” is on view at MOCA Grand Avenue from April 14–September 16. 

This is an installment of “Art on Video,” a collaboration between artnet News and Art21 that brings you clips of newsmaking artists. A new season of the nonprofit Art21’s flagship Art in the Twenty-First Century television is available now on PBS. Watch full episodes and learn about the organization’s education programs at Art21.org.

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