Every art enthusiast knows that art can be made of anything - paint and canvas, bronze and ceramics, ink, computer pixels, or a combination of materials. Art created by combining different media or materials is called mixed media art. Favorite among the daring, revolutionary artists, mixed media art can combine sculptures and paintings with photographs, woodblocks, or found objects, to bring the art as we know it to new heights.
Although examples of mixed media art can be traced back to antique times, Pablo Picasso is considered to be the father of the genre. His 1912 collage Still Life with Chair Caning, made out of paper, cloth, paint, and rope, is considered to be the first modern-day mixed media piece.
By Anselm Keifer’s (1981), oil paint, emulsion, straw on canvas
Types of Mixed Media Artworks
Mixed media art can come in all types and forms. Therefore it is safe to say, that there are as many types of mixed media works as there are art types in general. Here we’ll list some of the most common types that can be found in the art market.
Collage and Assemblage
For most, collage and assemblage are the first art forms that come to mind when we talk about mixed media art. After all, these are the most common examples of using a variety of materials to create an art piece.
Collage is made by gluing together paper clippings, photographs, beads, rocks, pieces of clothing, etc. to create a two-dimensional art piece. Correspondingly assemblage is created by nailing and welding, disparate materials, and/or everyday items together to create three-dimensional wall art or sculptural art.
Many famous artists used collage to express their creativity, including Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Marlene Dumas, and Richard Hamilton. Assemblage, on the other hand, is closely connected to the dada movement, pop art, and more recently to the works of Young British Artists.
By Robert Rauschenberg
Mixed media Paintings
Mixed media paintings can be made in three different ways, by experimenting with, paint, canvas, and techniques. Artists experiment with paint by mixing dissimilar types of paint (for example, oil and acrylic, spray paint, and watercolors), or even by combining paint and other liquids such as coffee and blood. Mixed media art can also be made by mixing different painting techniques such as painting and stenciling, or dry brushing and washing.
Many mixed media artists decide to give up on the brushes completely and turn to unusual tools for painting such as credit cards, sponges, or bubble wrap. And just like anything can replace a brush, anything can be used as canvas for mixed media artworks, as well (tea bags, books, magazines, mirrors...). Robert Rauschenberg, for example, painted some of his most renowned works on pillows, quilts, sheets, cardboards, wooden boxes, and doors.
Mixed media Sculptures
Any sculpture made out of a variety of materials is a mixed media sculpture. The options for creating mixed-media sculptures are almost limitless. You can have a sculpture whose base is made of clay but also includes paper, wood, glass, cloth, and other materials. Though mostly created by connecting different materials together, mixed media sculptures can also be made by carving, crocheting, or embroidering. Artist Joana Vasconcelos, for instance, uses ceramics, crocheting, ornaments, LED, and polyester, to create her colorful mixed-media sculptures.
By Stephanie Kilgast via Instagram @petitplat
Installations are three-dimensional large-scale constructions that occupy an entire gallery or exhibiting space. Unlike sculptures, installations represent a unified experience rather than a separate group of individual artworks. Some installations surround viewers as soon as they enter a gallery. Others require spectators to walk through them, while some can only be viewed from afar.
Most installations are made in mixed media techniques and can include anything from steel, glass, textile, feathers, to light, audio, video, and digital technologies. Sometimes these installations include various manufactured or natural objects. Artworks that include everyday objects carefully selected by an artist, and repurposed as art, are called found object art. Street artist Bordalo II, for example, creates large animal-themed found object works by combining paint and trash.
How to Collect Mixed Media Art
Experimenting with different media helps artists break the barriers of art and create disruptive innovative pieces. As a constantly evolving form, mixed media art provides artists with enhanced freedom of expression, while often emphasizing the artmaking process, just as much as the final piece.
Due to its versatility, you can always find a mixed media artwork that makes a great addition to any collection. Some mixed media works are more obvious than others. It’s easy to spot a mixed media sculpture made out of clay, cloth, and wires, but telling the difference between acrylic and oil paint is a much more complicated task. That’s why, if you want to know exactly what a mixed media artwork is made of make sure to ask the gallerists or artists themselves, and they’ll be happy to tell you all about it.