What is mixed media?

Mixed media refers to a work of art that has been created using various materials or mediums which may not be traditionally combined in visual art media. There is however a distinction between mixed media and multimedia which is important to understand.

Mixed media works of art combine traditional techniques and materials. For example, a canvas that uses oil paint, spray paint, and charcoal can be described as a mixed media work. The spectrum of techniques and materials that can be used is broad. Three-dimensional multiples made of different materials, as well as collages and assemblages, can be described as mixed media. Multimedia art, on the other hand, includes new media. In multimedia art moving images as well as non-visual material (such as sound recordings) are part of the artwork.

Collages are mixed media pieces. In order to create a collage, different elements are glued to a base. Paper cutouts, photographs or even fabrics can be used. Assemblages are collages that contain plastic objects. These objects are attached to the base and give the artwork a relief-like surface.

The art form of mixed media is relatively new in the art world. There is a consensus in art history that the first works covered by this definition came into existence in the early 20th century. Pablo Picasso was one of the first artists to work with mixed media. In 1912 he created collage still life pieces with tubular wickerwork, in which he inserted everyday materials and objects. During the global economic crisis, more and more artists began to discover the art form and to break away from the restriction of painting or drawing. After the war, Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg were two of the most iconic artists who experimented repeatedly with mixed media.

With ever new materials, mixed media is a constantly evolving medium in the art world.  Examples of mixed media works include Jessica Stockholder’s Swiss Cheese Field 16, 2009 and Franz West’s Honeymoon, 2012 which is made using paper-maché with wire mesh.

 

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