Poor. Old. Tired. Horse.
17 June – 23 August 2009
Curated by Mark Sladen
Poor. Old. Tired. Horse. is an exhibition of art that verges on poetry. The exhibition starts with work from the 1960s, and with a group of artists who are associated with the Concrete Poetry movement that flourished during that decade. The movement can be taken as a symbol of the cross-pollination between art and literature that was a feature of the 1960s, but the exhibition goes on to look at other artistic practices from this era that explored the intersection of the graphic and the poetic, and concludes with a group of younger artists who place such concerns at the heart of their work.
The concrete poetry genre has ancient roots, and can be understood as poetry in which the visual manifestation of words is as important in conveying the intended effect as the more conventional elements in the poem. However, the Concrete Poetry movement is mainly associated with the 1950s and 60s, and the exhibition starts with the work of the artist and writer Ian Hamilton Finlay, who – in one of his many incarnations – was a key figure in the movement in Britain. The exhibition takes its title from a periodical that Finlay ran from 1962 to 1968, and which featured his own graphic and literary experiments alongside those of other artists and poets.
Poor. Old. Tired. Horse. continues with the work by a number of artists who, like Finlay, were connected with the Concrete Poetry movement, demonstrating some of the range of positions that it embraced. The exhibition includes typewritten poems by Dom Sylvester Houédard and Henri Chopin; ‘Poem Machines’ by Liliane Lijn – spinning cones inscribed with letters or short phrases and designed to explore the notion of language as energy; and giant text-based PVC signs by Ferdinand Kriwet.
We now associate the ‘linguistic turn’ within 1960s art with the use of written instructions or records within Conceptual practice, or of advertising language within Pop, but a significant number of artists also allied themselves with poetic, literary or expressive language. The exhibition includes drawings by Robert Smithson from the early 60s, in which image and text combine to create phantasmagorical emblems; as well as typewritten works by Carl Andre, Vito Acconci and Christopher Knowles.
The pictorial or illustrative possibilities of art were often denigrated in the 1960s, but the exhibition includes artists who flew in the face of such opinion. Philip Guston is represented by a group of ‘poem pictures’, made in collaboration with the poet Clark Coolidge; Alasdair Gray shows a group of prints that are based on illuminated versions of his poems; while David Hockney is represented by etchings that he produced to accompany the love poems of C.P. Cavafy.
The exhibition concludes with the work of a number of younger artists. Sue Tompkins, Janice Kerbel and Anna Barham are all represented by text-based pieces, the latter by a film in which letters are endlessly assembled and disassembled by hand. Other artists explore the combination of text and image, including Matthew Brannon and Frances Stark, while the artist and poet Karl Holmqvist is represented by a wall of photocopied poems and images from his ONELOVEWORLD book.
Poor. Old. Tired. Horse. is accompanied by issue two of ROLAND, the magazine of the ICA’s visual art programme.
The exhibition is complemented by a range of events, including a panel discussion entitled ‘What was / is concrete poetry?’ (Wednesday 1 July); a talk by artist Dan Graham, in conversation with art historian Anna Lovatt, which will centre on Robert Smithson, drawing and text (Tuesday 7 July, co-presented with Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art); a staging of The Power Game, a performance piece by Lilian Lijn (Tuesday 28 July, subject to confirmation); and an evening of experimental and performance poetry, curated by poet Chris McCabe (Thursday 30 July). For details of these and other events please see www.ica.org.uk/poth
Limited edition print
Frances Stark has created a limited edition print to accompany the exhibition. For further information contact Vicky Steer, Editions Manager (E: firstname.lastname@example.org / T: +44 20 7766 1425).
The Institute of Contemporary Arts is a registered charity in England, No: 263848