Saucy? He’s Just Getting Started! Artist: Felipe Jesus Consalvos

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“Slide 1: “You Can’t Forget” Collage on paper c. 1920-1960’s 57 ⅝ x 33 ½ in. The Fleisher Ollman Gallery , Philadelphia, PA
Slide 2: “The American System” c. 1920-1960’s Collage on paper 58 ¾ x 32 in.
Slide 3: “Everyday Housekeeping” c. 1920-1960’s Mixed media collage on paper board, double-sided 13 ⅜ x 10 ½ in.

Saucy? He’s Just Getting Started! Artist: Felipe Jesus Consalvos

“A Push Button Memory”
“Phantom Tube Comedy”
“You Can’t Forget When You Know You’re Not Forgotten”

These are examples of some of quizzical epigrams that dot the ribald work of artist Felipe Jesus Consalvos. Although he was born more than a century ago, his collages speak volumes and never fail to exude personality. Looking at his work, this writer is reminded of the misappropriated heads found on figures in the Dadist collages of Tristan Tzara and Hannah Hoch as well as the dense layering found in the imagery of Jess Collins.

Vivacious, nonsensical, cavalier and at times, subversive, Consalvos’ imagery is constructed using cigar box labels from his trade as a cigar roller, as well as magazine cut-outs, vintage car ads, architectural details and anatomical illustrations. Take for instance, You Can’t Forget where an unflappable corpse smokes a pipe.  A small iguana makes a home on his shoulder while a small Arc de Triomphe and suggestions of scaffolding lie adjacent. Convertibles whiz by, jam-packed with party revelers.  Anteaters and giraffes mill about. He sports a crown, headband and medal composed entirely out of cigar box labels while a sash boasts “Bankroll”. A phallic beer bottle sprouts from his pubic area while his center of gravity radiates “Gold Medal Wizard”.

Consalvos was born in 1891 in Havana, Cuba and immigrated to Miami around 1920, eventually settling in New York and then Philadelphia. His more than 750 surviving collages were discovered in a West Philadelphia garage sale nearly forty years ago:

“His obsessive body of work – approximately 750 surviving collages on paper, found photographs, musical instruments, furniture and other unexpected surfaces,  were discovered in 1980 at a West Philadelphia garage sale. [His style] merges the biting socio-political satire and absurdist impulses of Dadaists like Kurt Schwitters and Max Ernst with the abstruse mysticism of Joseph Cornell and Jess.” – Statement, The Fleisher/Ollman Gallery, Philadelphia,  PA

In her New York Times article “Red, White and Blue Americana Atop a Cultural Rainbow” (January 20, 2006), art critic Roberta Smith put his discovery on a par with folk-art greats like Henry Darger, Martin Ramirez and James Castle. She pronounced his work “belonging to the collage continuum of Hannah Hoch to Barbara Kruger”.

“The Golden City” Collage on photograph, double-sided c. 1920–1960 19 3/4 x 24 in. The Fleisher Ollman Gallery , Philadelphia, PA

Brendan Greaves in “DREAM THE REST”: On the Mystery and Vernacular Modernism of Felipe Jesus Consalvos, Cubamerican “Cigar Maker, Creator, Healer, & Manhad this to say:

“Staccato headlines and stagy compositions at once celebrate and eviscerate the icons of American history, betraying a deep skepticism of American milk-and- honey mythology, particularly presidents. These ribald and mischievous collages are masterpieces of thick appropriation and bricolage, incorporating an astonishing breadth of published materials dating from the late 18th-century through the 1950s. Consalvos skewered the sensibilities of the North American print culture that flourished in his Cuban youth and U.S. adulthood…” 

The estate of the artist is represented by The Fleisher Ollman Gallery in Philadelphia, Pa.

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