Sunday, October 15, 2006

Why you're a painter and you're a poet

Actually, the show I refer to below is called Gurgles, Sucks, Echoes by Roni Horn with a text by Lynne Tillman, which I'll get to in a minute. But first, a timely overlap in that it brings together a curiosity about textual art, Roni Horn, narrative, story-telling, and poetry.
I saw the Kay Rosen show at Yvon Lambert last week in Chelsea. The word plays below are representative works.


Not surprisingly, the following is a favorite:
If one is confused about the line between conceptual art and poetry, this exhibit, and the many other textually based works exhibited in Chelsea and elsewhere this year alone, may further confuse. And maybe that's a good thing. These "paintings" in fact do more than a lot of poetry I encounter to make vivid the ludic linguistic play evident in the sounds we utter hourly with so little attention... The sculptural play is actually very layered, though it packs the kind of concrete punch of a slick ad, or a logo. Tho, there is something sweet about the colour play and the perfection of the font, so clean, so precise and so punny. While I hesitate to want to cede that visual artists may be more attune to a word's verbal and visual lexicon, I must, when confronted, bow to a master. Particularly one who takes words back into the community, as Rosen does, literally reconfiguring them in public spaces. This, it seems to me, is something that poetry so often fails to do.

Then there is Roni Horn. I posted on her Wonderwater: Alice Offshore back in June, and in August, here where you can see a drawing by Anne Carson and another by Louise Bourgeois (Earlier posts on Bourgeois here and here). And below, you see the title image from Gurgles, the effect of these paintings is like that of the multi-coloured crayon covered over with black and then scratched away. they are lower case, the letters squeeze together often awkwardly.
Roni Horn has the best titles, which are in fact the paintings themselves: Bending Moments, Being Purple, Sometimes Dead, The Limit of the Twilight is 49 Miles, Perceptible Includes the Library, An Old Woman who has passed her life on a small Scottish cliff island is uncomfortable on the mainland because she can no longer see the edge...

I wonder if Frank O'Hara would still think the same way about painting vs. poetry as he did when he wrote "Why I am not a painter...". I also wonder why this isn't concrete poetry? Take the recent Shift & Switch anthology out of Canada which has a large and varied selection of visual and concrete poetry by people such as Rob Read, Gustave Morin, Matthew Hollet, which seems more like visual art than the visual art above. This is a thumbnail comparison of course, and I'm simply wondering here, not making an argument...but maybe what I'm uneasy about or weary of is the articulateness of the above pieces. These are not so much the "inarticulate marks" that bealieau refers to (Sianne Ngai's poetics of disgust...) in his concrete manifesto, as they are the articulate pun...

neither beaulieu's work (which I posted about here and offer up a piece by here) nor much of the work in Shift & Switch, gives us this surface satisfaction. So what is it that Rosen or Horn or any of the many visual artists who incorporate text into their work hope to achieve?

And on a completely different note...I've lost all my old links and am unable to post them on this bloody beta blogger template...if anyone knows drop a line.

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