Hard Words

Highlights from the Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry

In 1965 Carl Andre typed out words of incrementally increasing and decreasing lengths to create diamond patterns on letter paper. A couple of years later D.A. Levy used a typewriter in a more painterly fashion for Scarab. He typed over and over again on small squares of pastel-colored paper, allowing only two bold stamps spelling out the name of the sacred Egyptian beetle, along with a rusty rubbing of its physical shape, to emerge from the ragged gray rectangles of overlapping text. These works, and many more, form the core of this fascinating international survey that showcases creations from the 20th century done on the intimate scale of the printed page and chapbook. Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, whose Futurist manifestos extolled the cleansing power of war, is appropriately represented by a 1932 book of colorful slogans silk-screened onto sheet metal. Whether on paper, steel, or, in Robert Rauschenberg's case, 10 overlapping squares of Plexiglas printed with Native American poems and photographs, these artists insist that words have value as objects quite apart from their more predictable functions.

 
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