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Sticking Points

Collage artist James Zver, MFA ’69, shows in museums, galleries—and Hollywood blockbusters.

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James Zver

The artist at work.

Taken from the French word for “glue,” collage is an artistic medium in which disparate elements are brought together to create a more meaningful whole. The concept underscores the work that James Zver, MFA ’69, has been doing for decades. The Los Angeles-based Zver, who describes himself as an abstract collage artist, works in both paper and in wood. Regardless of materials, he says, his creative method remains constant. “Even my sculptures are really collage,” Zver says. “They’re not carved or molded; they’re pieces of wood that I assemble. And the thought process is exactly how I do my collages, where I prepare different shapes and then begin finding relationships.”

Near Sunset #4

Near Sunset #4

A former New Yorker—he had a loft in Soho back when the neighborhood was an edgy artists’ enclave—Zver has participated in dozens of group and solo shows over the years; his work is in the permanent collections of Yale, Brown, and the New York Public Library, among other institutions.

Last summer, seventy-nine of his pieces were on view at Cal State Polytechnic University in Pomona for a twenty-year retrospective of his work.

A collage from the After Madrid series

A collage from the After Madrid series

While Zver has a few private students— he has been teaching printmaking off and on since his graduate assistantship on the Hill, where he worked out of a studio in the basement of Franklin Hall—he has been supporting himself primarily through his art for years. “When I’m really working well, and the form is really coming together, that’s the best part,” says Zver, an undergrad alumnus of the Art Institute of Chicago and an Army veteran who did a two-year tour in Germany. “I’m really singing in the studio.”

Odds are you’ve seen Zver’s work— even if you didn’t realize it. His pieces are popular with Hollywood set decorators, who’ve used them to adorn fictional homes and offices.

From Another Place #10

From Another Place #10

(Two sculptures from his Nova Via series are appearing in the current season of the ABC melodrama “Revenge,” set among the super-rich Hamptons denizens.) Not a particular fan of mainstream movies and TV, Zver confesses that he’s never actually seen his work on screen. He did try to get a glimpse of his bas relief Closer and Closer Apart #14 when it graced the cliffside mansion of billionaire superhero Tony Stark in Iron Man 3, to no avail. “Rather early in the film,” he says, “they blew up the house.”

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