This catalogue showcases works by John Stezaker made by the artist between 1976 and 2017 and brought together in the exhibition Love (The Approach, London, 2018). They share and exemplify Stezaker’s iconic interruptions of, and interventions into, found images, which mostly date from the mid-twentieth century and as such are products of modernist culture: notably film stills, press and publicity photographs, magazines and postcards. In making his art, Stezaker employs technical devices that correspond to the figures and tropes in the poetic-scientific anatomies of love and desire proposed, for example, by Stendhal’s De l’amour (1822) and A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments (1977) by Roland Barthes. In so doing, his works engage with psychological archetypes, fragmentation, ‘re-seeing’, occlusion, desire, transmutation, enchantment, voyeurism, elusiveness, eroticism, inscrutability and enigma, heightened romance, glamour, fantasy, dreams and, most significantly perhaps, the gaze.
Stezaker’s interactions with the virtually infinite resource of mass imagery conflate aesthetics, psychology, cultural and visual theory; in this, his works enable renewed understandings of artists and thinkers as diverse as Charles Baudelaire, Carl Jung, Andy Warhol and Barthes. Disquieting, poetic, compelling, romantic, inscrutable, glamorous and strange, the anatomies of love and desire comprising Love resemble a visual encyclopedia of human consciousness.
Michael Bracewell has written extensively on modern and contemporary art and culture and is a contributor to the Burlington Magazine and Burlington Contemporary. He has contributed essays on the work of John Stezaker to several publications, including Tabula Rasa (Ridinghouse, 2010) and The Truth of Masks (Richard Gray Gallery, 2015).
Craig Burnett is the author of Philip Guston: The Studio (Afterall, 2014) and Jeff Wall (Tate, 2005). The exhibitions Revolt of the Sage (2016) and Doodle and Disegno (2018), which he organized at Blain|Southern, both featured the work of John Stezaker.