Exhibit shows how newspapers can be art


In Arthur Dove’s “The Critic,” the artist makes fun of a critic who didn’t like his work. The collage is part of the "Shock of the News” exhibition at the National Gallery of Art. You can make your own version at home. (Estate of Arthur G. Dove)
October 2, 2012

The idea of recycling newspapers has been around a long time. Before the big plastic bins appeared at the curb, people were using the newspaper to clean windows, wrap presents or even line the bottom of bird cages. But for more than 100 years, newspapers have been transformed into something more interesting: art.

Pablo Picasso, a famous Spanish artist, cut out pieces of stories for his collages beginning in 1912. Several decades later, Salvador Dali created a pretend newspaper about himself. American artist Laurie Anderson took pages from two newspapers, cut them into strips and then wove them together.

The National Gallery of Art gathered these and several dozen more examples of newspapers in art for a new exhibition, called “Shock of the News.” Judith Brodie, who organized the exhibition, says part of the reason artists used newspaper was very practical.

“Newspapers are cheap and available,” Brodie said. And creating art on newspaper makes it easier to experiment. “You can throw it away if you don’t like it,” she said.

Brodie said artists have had other reasons for using newspapers. They have interesting patterns and shapes. There are long columns and interesting typographies (shapes of the letters). They have words of different sizes: big headlines down to tiny agate (pronounced a-gat) type you find on the sports pages.


Laurie Anderson's “New York Times, Horizontal/China Times, Vertical” has strips from two newspapers woven together. Try using KidsPost and a comics pages for your own creation. ( Museum Associates/LACMA/Art Resource )

And then there are the articles themselves. Artists have used stories about war or other serious issues to make a statement. They also have used not-so-serious stories — such as a bad review from an art critic — to have a bit of fun.

KidsPost wants you to use your creativity to have fun with the newspaper. Here are three ideas. (Ask Mom or Dad before you start cutting.)

●The papier-mache

(Suggested for age 7 and older)

Inspiration: The newspaper strips in “C-E-L-I-N-E, Backwards” by Claes Oldenburg, aren’t random pieces. The artist said he chose them because they had “some forms on them, letter forms and so on and photographs that would make [the piece of art] work.” Oldenburg made the words almost jump off the wall by soaking the paper strips in wheat paste to form papier-mache (which means “chewed paper” in French) and layering them on a wire frame. The layers form the last name of French writer Louis-Ferdinand Celine, except backwards. Oldenburg said he did this to show he didn’t like the writer’s opinions about politics.

What you’ll need: Newspaper (look for colorful pages or interesting headline words); water; flour; sugar; a form (could be made with inflated balloons, shoe boxes, paper towel or toilet paper rolls, egg cartons, soda bottles, paper cups); scissors; tape; paint brush; and paint (optional).

How to make it: Tear newspaper into one-inch-wide strips. Set aside. For the paste, Family Fun magazine recommends the following (you’ll need an adult’s help with this): In a saucepan, bring two cups of water to a boil. Combine a half-cup of all-purpose flour with two cups of cold water in a bowl. Add this mixture to the boiling water, and bring it to a boil again. Remove from the heat, and stir in three tablespoons of sugar. Let it cool. While the paste cools, put your form together. (You might pick a form that relates to the words and images you’re using — a ball to cover with sports stories, for example.) Dip a strip of paper into the paste and pull the strip through your fingers to remove extra paste. Lay the strip on the form, and brush to smooth out wrinkles. Continue laying strips, overlapping slightly, until the entire form is covered. Let dry. If you would like to add color, paint parts of it, but don’t cover all the words.

●The collage

(Suggested for age 5 and older)


Claes Oldenburg’s “C-E-L-I-N-E, Backwards” is newspaper dipped in wheat paste, a kind of papier-mache. (Tim Nighswander/Imaging4Art)

Inspiration: Picasso included bits of several kinds of paper to create his still-life collages. But in “Guitar, Sheet Music and Glass,” which is part of “Shock of the News,” words from the newspaper catch your eye. Part of the name of the French newspaper Le Journal is cut off. Why? Brodie writes in the exhibition catalogue that Picasso might want people to think of another word, “jouer,” which means “to play.”

What you’ll need: A variety of paper (newspaper, construction paper, copy paper, contact paper, wallpaper, catalogues or old magazines); scissors; glue stick.

How to make it: Pick an idea or theme — maybe autumn or your favorite sport or places you have dreamed of visiting. Cut out shapes, letters and photos. Use one sheet of paper as your base. Arrange cutouts to explain your idea. After you are satisfied with your design, glue each piece in place.

●The weaving

(Suggested for age 8 and older)

Inspiration: Anderson’s “New York Times, Horizontal/China Times, Vertical” created unusual patterns by weaving together a newspaper that uses Chinese calligraphy and one that uses English lettering. Brodie said Anderson admitted that the weaving was difficult because she used very thin strips of paper.

What you’ll need: Two equal-size sheets of newspaper (maybe a page from the comics and the KidsPost page); scissors; tape.

How to make it: Take one newspaper page and, starting from the top, cut it into 32 horizontal strips. Lay them in a pile from top to bottom. Paper-clip the pile. Take the other page and cut into 16 vertical strips. Lay the strips on a table in the same order they appeared in the paper. Unclip the horizontal strips and carefully weave the first one over and under the bottom edge of vertical strips. Tape along the bottom to secure. Weave the 31 remaining horizontal strips over and under the vertical strips, working from the bottom of the page to the top. Tape the sides every few inches, and tape the top so the strips stay together. You may end up with an extra horizontal strip or two.

Christina Barron

If you go

What:Shock of the News” exhibition.

Where: National Gallery of Art, East Building,
Fourth Street and Constitution Avenue NW.

When: Through January 27. Hours are Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from
11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

How much: Free.

How old: Exhibition is best suited for age 10 and older.

If you create your own art

Send us a photo of your art project using newspapers; we may publish some of them in an upcoming KidsPost. Have a parent or guardian send the image as a jpeg attachment to kidspost@washpost.com. (Put “Newspaper art” in the subject line.) Include the title of your work if there is one, a sentence or two about your creation and your full name, age and home town.

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