In 1961 the Museum of Modern Art mounted the exhibition The Art of Assemblage. Curated by William Seitz, this exhibition marked the first time the term "assemblage" was put into popular use and also the first time "assembled art" was recognized for its importance in the context of modern art. Seitz set out to refine the definition of "assemblage" in order "cover all forms of composite art and modes of juxtaposition". The exhibition was significant in that it presented "assemblage" as one of the two most important innovations in modern art, the first being abstraction.
Today, assemblage encompasses all works that are assembled from found objects or material from everyday life. The term is frequently associated with a very Bauderlarian sensibility in its expression of modern life and, in particular, of urban culture. The technical innovation of the artists presented in this exhibition is unparalleled. The use of collage, originating in the work of Picasso in 1912, has radically evolved over the past 40 years into elaborate constructions, from the scrap metal of John Chamberlain to the cabinetry of Ed Kienholz, from the flea market bobbles of Bruce Conner to the refined paper reliefs of Richard Tuttle. This exhibition will trace the history of assemblage from its founding fathers Marcel Duchamp and Kurt Schwitters through the artists who have take assemblage through the 60s and 70s to it present manifestation of the 1990s.