Visual Poetry on the Page: With, Within, and Without the Word, An Exhibit at MainSite Contemporary Art Gallery
Virtual opening: Friday, January 8 at 6:00 p.m. CST
Open to in-person viewing at MainSite Contemporary Art Gallery beginning on Wednesday, January 13 and continuing through Saturday, February 13, 2021.
Hours: 10am-4pm Wednesday through Saturday
A few works are already up on MainSite’s online gallery: https://www.mainsitecontemporaryart.com/visual-poetry-on-the-page/6nlc4jd90g6n3g4fjg4iqkr8e6v4km
Visual Poetry on the Page: With, Within, and Without the Word explores a movement that asks viewers to read the works as visual art. Unlike concrete, written poems, a visual poem “typically includes many other elements than alphabetic text,” including any number of mediums or artist manipulation, including painting, photos, digital manipulation or any other means to “obliterate the boundary between visual arts and literature.” “Visual poetry is what we can see,” organizer Crag Hill said in his curator statement. “It can be what we see when we see within, behind, and beyond words, when we see through parts of words, through and with letters, parts of letters, the ineffable marks we make on and in spaces we inhabit and aspire to live with and for.”
The exhibition includes dozens of works by a number of visual poets from across the world, including:
K.S. (Kathy) Ernst
Dona Mayoora aka Donmay Donamayoora
Contemporary visual poetry arose out of the concrete poetry movement of the 1950s, drawing also from the Dada and Russian Futurism movements in and around World War I. Both visual and concrete poetry challenge the notion of what an image is and can mean in society. Critic Harry Polkinhorn wrote, “Visual poetry occupies a genuine ‘intermedia’ space between linear poetry (that which relies upon syntax, style and traditional versification for its effects) and the visual arts.” In visual poetry, then, the building blocks of written language—letters, words, symbols, pictographs, ideograms, lines, color—have taken on new, expanded roles.
Where letters and words remain visible in concrete poetry—they remain the focal point of the poem and thus the majority of concrete poems can still be voiced—they are on the verge of disappearing in visual poetry, not greater than the other visual material in the poem.
Though graphic designers have long recognized the power of words melded with images (e.g. logos, advertising, signage), visual poetry, since the 1970s, blurs—or obliterates—the boundary between the visual arts and literature and thus continues to have a far greater presence in galleries and museums than in literary venues.