Can You Say ? (You Can See) :

'Poetry Plastique'

Marianne Boesky 535 West 22nd Street, Chelsea Through March 10

"Art and poetry: made for each other. So it has always been. Poets write about art; artists turn to poetry for ideas. Sometimes the two disciplines meet in collaboration; occasionally that collaboration is forged in the work of a single person. All these variables are aired in "Poetry Plastique," in which image and word are flexibly intertwined.

Organized by Jay Sanders, who is on the staff at Boesky, and the poet Charles Bernstein, the selection covers a stretch of recent historical ground. At the early end are scribbly, word-peppered Blakean pages by Robert Smithson from 1962 and a labyrinthine written piece by the arch-Fluxian Jackson Mac Low from 1975. The 1970's are well represented here, with work by Carl Andre, Wallace Berman and text- and-image collaborations by Arakawa and Madeline Gins.

Other work is new. Mr. Bernstein collaborates with Richard Tuttle on a witty sculpture made of plump, strung together 3-D letters, and with Susan Bee on a noirish painting in which Emily Dickinson and Mickey Spillane face off. Dickinson's attenuated handwriting finds an echo in Mira Schor's word paintings. The show enters the digital realm in a rich text-and-image work by Johanna Drucker and Brad Freeman, and in Tan Lin's computer-generated poetry pulsing away on three monitors.

The day after the show opened, the gallery was host to a series of related panel discussions and readings. Poets and artists participated. A big audience turned up. It was great. The buzz of voices and ideas made the art in the room — and Chelsea itself, for that matter — feel alive and interactive. Some of the pieces really need that charge; they look staid and hermetic without it. But others do fine on their own, and the cross-disciplinary concept behind the show is ripe for further exploration.

Perhaps Mr. Sanders and Mr. Bernstein already have further plans along these lines. Meanwhile, art and texts mutually ignite elsewhere in the city these days: in Cy Twombly's not-to-be-missed "Coronation of Sesostris" paintings, based on a poem by Patricia Waters, at Gagosian Gallery (980 Madison Avenue, at 76th Street, through tomorrow); in a collaboration between the painter Max Gimblett and the poet John Yau at Ethan Cohen Fine Art (37 Walker Street, SoHo, through March 10); in a series of collaborative prints by contemporary Puerto Rican artists and poets at El Taller Boricua (Lexington Avenue at 106th Street, through tomorrow); in an exhibition of contemporary text-based works, "A Way with Words," at the Whitney at Philip Morris (120 Park Avenue, at 42nd Street, through March 30); and in a jewel of an exhibition of artists' diaries, with bold little drawings and sonnet-size personal jottings, at the Archives of American Art (1285 Avenue of the Americas, at 51st Street, through May 31)."


- bill 2-23-2001 6:06 pm

Charles Bernstein is the writer responsible for the introduction to the most important book ever written: Rational Meaning;A New Foundation for the Definition of Words , byLaura(Riding) Jackson & Schuyler B. Jackson. "Palatability, of various contemporary kinds, is exactly what the authors see as a problem."
- frank 4-12-2001 8:57 pm [add a comment]

  • Someday I'm going to understand what that book is about. Very difficult. And not in the way someone like Derrida (or even Heidegger) is difficult. There is no tortured or overly convoluted language. The ideas just seem so big; I don't even understand what the problem is, so making much of the book is difficult. Still, I sense there is something in there, so I keep trying (or maybe it's just that I trust you, so I keep trying.)

    I went through what might be a similar thing with something called "object oriented programming" which is a programming style much in vogue right now. I would read about it, and everything was basically clear to me (or at least, there wasn't any specific thing I didn't understand) but I still didn't get it. "Why would you do it that way?" I used to think. At the same time I was working on a project that was growing bigger and bigger (and more and more out of control) and I started to develop some theories about how I could maintain some control. Eventually I realized that the problems I was having were exactly the problems that OOP is trying to solve. And as soon as I saw the problem clearly, everything made sense. I didn't learn one single new fact about OOP, but the whole picture just clicked once the initial problem was grasped.

    I think I have the same thing with that book. Seems like she groks some fundamental problem (inadequacy?) with the way we think about language, and that problem is so clear to her that it probably doesn't even need to be stated. I'm not there yet though, so I can't make much of her writing.

    Not sure why I'm writing all this. Maybe I'm looking for clues. What's the problem here? Of course I want to understand the "most important book ever written" ;-)
    - jim 4-13-2001 12:28 am [add a comment]

    • Between the hundred climbs I've taken up the vine & the birth of my son something happened to the way I perceive words & worlds. The gist seems to be,& PK Dick & William Blake would agree here, telling a lie is murder to a mind & all our modern minds are half dead with the lies we are forced to swallow & utter daily. The Cheyenne have no names for gods, they have these amazing old compound nouns that mean things like the beautiful mystery that powers all life. For a basically honest person like you, Jim, Rational Meaning gets little traction but for the habitues of the precincts of poetry it is a great antidote. I feel like it saved me from having to write the poem that was going to explain so called nonverbal reality which was leading me into madness,albeit mighty cool, but madness nonetheless. I'll be hashing this one out so much that all y'all'll read the book & shut me up with statements like:Duh?! Frank.
      - frank 4-13-2001 7:10 am [add a comment]

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