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NYU Fales Library Displays Masterworks of the Global Concrete Poetry Movement

November 2, 2011
N-109, 2011-12

On Exhibition at NYU’s Open House Gallery at 528 LaGuardia Place, NYC,  Nov. 2, 2011-Jan. 31, 2012

New York University’s 2031 Open House Gallery at 528 LaGuardia Place presents a new exhibition titled “Concrete Poetry to Feed My Mind”: Images from the Fales Library and Special Collections at NYU,” curated by Marvin J. Taylor, director of the Fales Library.  The exhibition will be on display from November 2, 2011-January 31, 2012.

Exhibition hours are: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, noon–5 p.m.; Thursdays, 2–7 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays, 1-4 p.m. For more information, the public may call 212.992.7351.  [Subways A,C,E, B,D,M to West 4th Street; 6 line to Astor Place; R train to 8th Street.].

"Concretism is still alive and well,” remarks Taylor.  “In her song “Black Jesus,” Lady Gaga sings, “concrete poetry to feed my mind / old symbolism was left behind.” With her characteristically brainy lyrics, Gaga, who attended NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, gives us an insight into her creative process. The idea for doing this exhibition grew out of her reference," he said.

The exhibition, curated by Taylor, pays tribute to Mary Ellen Solt (1920-2007), who used letter and word arrangements to enhance the meaning of a poem and was a leader in the "concrete poetry" movement.  Concrete poetry was a name given to a host of post-World War II experiments in literature that looked beyond the simple signification of words and meanings to a new mode of visual and linguistic communication.

Taylor, who was a student of Solt’s, selected the images in this exhibition from her anthology Concrete Poetry: A World View, 1968, The images, drawn from Fales Library’s significant holdings of concrete poetry in its Downtown New York Collection, show a cross section of the kinds of verbo-visual experiments concretists were doing.  

The concrete poetry movement was global in scope and there are works on display from Brazil, Germany, the United States, Austria, and others.  Concretism is considered by many to be a precursor to the work of downtown artists such as Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer, Adrian Piper, and others who used text in new ways in their art work.

In her definitive anthology of concretism, Solt says, concrete poets “hold…the conviction that the old grammatical-semantical structures are no longer adequate to advanced processes of thought and communication in our time.” That is, influences from advertising, the visual arts, graphic design, television, etc., had all changed communication, and poetry had to change, too.

Solt continues: “In other words, the concrete poet seeks to relieve the poem of its centuries-old burden of ideas, symbolic reference, allusion and repetitious emotional content; of its servitude to disciplines outside itself as an object in its own right for its own sake. This, of course, asks a great deal of what used to be called the reader. He must now perceive the poem as an object and participate in the poet’s act of creating it, for the concrete poem communicates first and foremost its structure.”

About Fales Library and Special Collections:

The Fales Library, comprising nearly 250,000 volumes, and over 15,000 linear feet of archive and manuscript materials, houses the Fales Collection of rare books and manuscripts in English and American literature, the Downtown Collection, the Food and Cookery Collection and the general Special Collections of the NYU Libraries. The Fales Collection was given to NYU in 1957 by DeCoursey Fales in memory of his father, Haliburton Fales. It is especially strong in English literature from the middle of the 18th century to the present, documenting developments in the novel. The Downtown Collection documents the downtown New York art, performance, and literary scenes from 1975 to the present and is extremely rich in archival holdings, including extensive film and video objects. The Food and Cookery Collection is a vast, and rapidly expanding collection of books and manuscripts documenting food and foodways with particular emphasis on New York City. Other strengths of the collection include the Berol Collection of Lewis Carroll Materials, the Robert Frost Library, the Kaplan and Rosenthal Collections of Judaica and Hebraica and the manuscript collections of Elizabeth Robins and Erich Maria Remarque. The Fales Library preserves manuscripts and original editions of books that are rare or important not only because of their texts, but also because of their value as artifacts.

This Press Release is in the following Topics:
Fales, Division of Libraries, NYU Open House, exhibition

Type: Press Release

Press Contact: Christopher James | (212) 998-6876

NYU Fales Library Displays Masterworks of the Global Concrete Poetry Movement

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