বুধবার, ১৩ মার্চ, ২০১৯

[SYNAPSE ESSAY THE FIFTH] Russian Avant-garde poet & painter artist Elena Guro. By Marilyn R. Rosenberg


Russian Avant-garde poet & painter artist Elena Guro 
By Marilyn R. Rosenberg (original essay, 1992)

A bridge between Symbolism and Futurism. A contributor to and a participant in the creation of and champion of early Artists Books’ in the Russian Avant-Garde. 

(Full name: Elenora Genrikhovna Guro. How this woman’s work is received by the historians is a wonderful aside.  Some references note her as “poetess-painter” Mikhail Matiushin’s wife.  A female writer includes Matiushin, and notes him as Elena Guro’s husband.)

Part 1 The Translations
Lost to us as English/American readers in 2019... is a great deal.  Not only do we see only part of the content through the translator, we see at times only the translator with a new work, often wonderful work of art.  Of the original inspiration, catalyst, or means in its original Russian visual/verbal poem/book we miss some aspect of both its original content and philosophy.  Two analogies: hearing music over a 1930’s radio on a rainy night, or looking at a Fauve painting in a black and white  miniature reproduction.  We miss the way the words sit on the page, what is seen with the words, and like the Fauve painting we miss part of the content, since with the Fauvists the use of color and how it is used counts, also what counts is the type style and size and placement of all component which are part of the content of the poem/image.  One excellent example is when the spelling was simplified and changed, orthographic reform, which had been discussed for a long time, and finally was initiated  by the Bolshevik government just after the October revolution, some letters and letter shapes were eliminated and others added.  Certainly the course of events of history is more complex. In Mayakovsky’s poem War and the World of 1916 (Voyna i mir),  a pun is lost “when the graphic distinction on a word disappears a year after its first publication.  It has lost part of its meaning as the visual aspect is eliminated.  I have more to say on this. 

Part 2 The Books and Artists’ Books
The visual look of the word expressed the tactility, the factura of the meaning more clearly than normal type can.  The word as it lives in the space of the page, groups of words in the space of the poem, the book has a unique role in that original context. which is altered away from that context.  There is a correlation between the look of it, and the meaning of it.
   There are many creative books of the period  many more than I will mention.  These are often limited editions, often not more than 300 copies, and there are often differences from one copy to another within the edition. Agreement as to whether these items are actually books or not is a question asked by many even now.   For this discussion I will call all of them books, at least, and many Artists’ Books. Many contain visual poetry.  
   The artists did communicate with each other and record their works and ideas in this form of publication, one example is The Word As Such . These book, like their counterparts in France and Italy, are a dramatic departure from most past books in the use of typography, layout, paper, and binding. They are of a different style and can not to be confused with deluxe fine print edition books,  which were still being created in some quarters in France, Italy and continued in Russia until 1917.  What I am talking about is closer to broadsides.

   For the most, they are related to and depended on the means and methods of the woodcuts and hand colored booklets, both of which are called in Russia Lubok. = folk forms.The Russians  extend this form, often refers to in the west as the Russian comic books because of the mixing together of word and image in crude  unpolished form and format.  
   In regular books of course illustrations do accompany text, and text explains images.  With the books I am discussing, something else is happening.  Here with the avant-garde,  the book is rough paper and crude with simple binding. The imagery and image and the word and letter  play one of two roles
   Role one: In many of the avant-garde books, the image is a component equal to the text. . The text can not function efficiently without its visual aspects. and the visual imagery is bare without its text, which together text and image cause cohesiveness. 
   In other instances, the words and images create strong disharmony or disjunction, one example is Troe, The Three,  and as Bowlt says  its images 
“have no direct reference to the text and are to be viewed.. as visual accompaniments rather than illustrations in the conventional sense.   Such prints may be ‘irrelevant’, but, then, ALOGICALITY was an active ingredient of avant-garde literature and art, and the deliberate insertion of the non sequitur constituted a direct affront to the reading public-nurtured on the Victorian cultural and social tradition of order, sequence and explicability”.  
Often at the same time the text and the image is in direct alliance to the futuristic philosophy of the time, and that is so in Three.  And I will discuss three in a minute.  Deliberate and strong marriage or conflict between word and image is not new and we can find them in 18th and 19th broadsides, but not to this extent or with such great strength.
   The Year of 1913 turns into one the productive years for  publications, but many others were created after that.  Surely the Books in which Elena Guro participated may not have been the most innovative as Artists’ Books, but information about the other folks contributions to this area is readily available; Guro’s contribution has often been overlooked. 

Part 3 Background
Reminder in the visual art world- France, Cubism 1907-14, Italian Futurism 1909-15 , German Expressionism 1910-22.  Mallarme will use the page as space in the most dynamic way using its visual space as part of the verbal, Appollinaire will create pattern poems that alter the reading of the work.  But these man have not yet published their works in Guro’s time. 
    In Russia, some of these who were writers or poets themselves, keeping  in mind that as yet the Moscow and Petersburg groups are not united, are listed here.
David Burliuk (Moscow) and Vladimir Burliuk (St Petersburg), Natalia Goncharova, Vasilii Knadinsky, Mikhail Larionov, El Lissitzky, Kazimir Malevich, Alexander Rodchenko, Olga Rozanova (St Petersburg), Varvard Stepanova, Vladimir Tatlin, were visual artists. They were also involved in either book design or illustration in addition to their painting or sculpting concerns. They come in contact with the poets, some of which were also visual artists or. had spent time in art school, many came to poetry from painting.  A few were Elena Guro ( St Petersburg), Velimir Khlebnikov (St Petersburg), Alexei Kruchenykh (Moscow) and Vladimir Mayakovsky.  David Burliuk, Kruchenykh, Guro, & Matushin “exhibited regularly with Malevich Moscow and Tatlin.
(Livshits  is from Moscow)
Later many of the visual and verbal artists will work in groups to publish a vast amount of books and Artists Books. However the physical format the book structure will never burst forth out of the traditional signature and bound format. 

Part 4 About Guro.

Elena Genrikhovna Guro (pseudonym of Elonora von Notenberg), b.  in St Petersburg 1877. Died at 36 years April 1913 of TB in her summer house in the Finnish village of Uusikrikko.  She was both artist and poet all of her life,  often combining the two disciplines, the visual and verbal. Guro attended the school of the society for the Encouragement of the arts. Then she met Minkail Vasilievich Matiushin  when she studied with a well know painter of her time  Later Matiushin will be her husband. After 3 years she and Matushin let the studio to study with another artist.  At this point, 1904 she is a professional painter and she illustrate and edition ow work by George Sand  Her father, from a noble French family who had escaped the 1793 Revolution left to Guro both a pension and the daca (summer house) in Finland.
The hand book of Russian Literature tell us 
“Guro’s Literary works present impressionist, symbolist, and futurist traits.  Her poetic world includes the harmonious order of nature and the tragic reality of city life.  Guro’s urbanism is expressed in an impressionist manner.  However, it shows many features typical of Mayakovsky’s poetry and Natalya Goncharova’s painting.  Her sensitivity to the ‘word’ as a poetic fact, and her skillful play with neologisms show her kinship with the futurist practitioners of ‘transrational poetry’(zaum’).  Guro’s neologisms are often derived from children’s language, and the child as a poetic persona often appears in her works.  Guro’s all pervading theme is love for all creatures and things, and a maternal concern for the rejected, the weak, and the defenseless.”  

    Camilla Gray tells us that  typically used by Guro, Mayakovsky, Kruchenikh, KLhlebnikov and the Brother Burlicks during 1912 and 13  was the use of “epithet, street language, out of context and jumbled words, or eroticism and infantile language, archaic language and breaking down words until nothing is left but sound”.   
   Perloff believes that The Word as Such, which begins “As if it were written and read in the twinkling of an eye! (singing, splash, dance, throwing down of clumsy structures, forgetting unlearning).’ was the method of Khlebnikov, Kruchenykh and Guro.  The second statement in the word  ‘2. As if it were written with difficulty and read with difficulty, more uncomfortable than blacked boots or a truck in a drawing room’ was the method of David and Vladimir Burlick, of B. Livshits and Mayakovsky.   Both methods are “valuable” and sides of the “same coin” Add more for paper from 124
   O’Brien points out which poems are written with male and which female. I agree with him that those in the female voice may be her own voice since many are feminist, maternal, humanist, confessional and or diaristic. Other works are clearly about conservation, ecology. and environment.
   O’Brien also believes that the males in her poems are the sons she did not have and that they are the little camels.
   Jindrich Chalupecky, describes Guro’s painting in the collection of a futurist scholar. ‘they are on the boarderline between Impressionism and fauvism - the vision with its clear pure colours is impressionist, the structure of the paintings and broad brush strokes are fauvist.’. ( A meaningless and non informative description)  Her drawings are in her books, simple line, some “vignettes”.  Later the line is rougher and the work is  moody and stylized.  Yes I agree, in addition, the have an oriental feel to them, a simplicity, yet her hand is more shaky, not sure, but at times ?

Part 5 Chronology of Events and Poems

Guro publishes a short story “Early Spring” in a lesser known publication, An Anthology of New Writers.  The piece contains two ideas which will emerge again later: -  the point of view of a “child’s approach to the world” and “departure from the city and the rural scene”. 
   1908, in St Petersburg, Milner says “Khlebnikov was studying Sanskrit, Slavic studies and biology at the University of St Petersburg.  He was also becoming closely involved with writers and painters there.  The poet Vassily Kamensky” begins to publish Khlebnikov verbal pieces in his journal Vesna (Spring), and he also introduces Khlebnikov to the painter Nilolai Kublin;  and the couple, one the publisher, musician and painter Mikhail Matyusin and the other the poet and painter Elena Guro.
   Camilla Grey tell us the ‘The Impressionist’ Exhibition, is where simpatico artists met in 1909.   The exhibition in St Petersburg, consisted primarily of landscapes, and was not memorable, and certainly was not an Avant-garde event.  But there Guro and Matiusin, a friend of Malevich, Kruchenikh, still a practicing painter, and others had a chance to meet. Also in 1909 Guro’s first book is self-published, The Hurdy Gurdy (Sharmanka).Five of the drawings from the book were exhibited in that show. But neither the visual nor the verbal critics pay any attention to her works.  The unsold consigned books, almost all of them, are finally returned to her and she donates them to sanatorium libraries.   The book consists of prose, poetry and plays.  There is ‘Gothic Miniature’, ‘From the Middle Ages’, ‘Songs of the City”,  ‘That’s Life’., The Concert’ and ‘Moonlight’ all city themes.  There is ‘Early Spring’.written from a child’s viewpoint of departure. Although a critic friend has negative things to say about the work (some friend) others appreciate it (Block, Remizov, Sestov).  She has one foot in the Symbolist camp.  But her home is the center for the gathering of the younger futurists. They discuss a project.
   Her other foot is in the futurist camp. The two will soon go to war.  Guro tries to remain neutral.  I suspect that the few years she is not heard from later,  she will not publically show allegiance to either, while keeping the respect of all. For now, in April 1910  Guro collaborates with  Klebnikov, the Burlyuk brothers, Kamensky in a publication she subsidizes.   It is a combination of early Cubo-futuristic poems and images printed on wallpaper pages, which is “crude and unorthodox”  and has a “starling homemade” look, A Trap for Judges.one (Sadok suedej) it can also be translated as The Hatchery of Judges one. Milner describes the work:The materials employed are “extraordinarily noticeable and important..an answer to the elegant and lavish publications” of the more conventional artists and deluxe editions.  David Burlyuk is a “prime force in its emergence” but the title is Khlebnikov’s, the book is  “prepared in Kamensy’s St Petersburg apartment...”  The book is a “seminal object for the movement” soon  know as Russian Futurism.. so Milner says.  Perloff says -It is 130 pages, with the title label glued to a wallpaper cover. It includes “Khlebnikov’s ‘Zverinets (Zoo)’ and ‘Zhuravl (The Crane)’” and “a dozen poems by each of the Burlick brothers and as many again by Elena Guro.” However the bill to the printer is unpaid, so very few copies leave the shop, and there are very few reviews.
   Also in 1909 or 10, Guro forms the Venok (Wreath), with V. Komensky  and D. and V. Burlyuk. Small groups like this one from Moscow, Petersburg, Odessa and Kiev start to gather in unity with each other, linking together.  Complex and numerous exhibitions are held in a variety of town during 1910, culminating in the Moscow ‘Knave of Diamonds’ exhibition of December.  Here the entire crowd of the avant-garde is united for the first time.. “Many of the poets that we later find in the cubo-futurist group can be found in publications around 1910 under labels like ‘impressionists’ and ‘Hylaea’ ...Elena Guro stands out as the only urbanist poet among David and Nikola Burljuk and V. Xlebnikov.”  But, there is some references to urban life in Judges one.  Guro “stopped writing about the city after 1910”
   In March the newly formed Petersburg society called the ‘Union of Youth’ holds an exhibition, the first of many of this name.
   But, “the close-knit cooperation” does not last long; in 1911 until the war and 1914,  factions grow, independent groups come and go.  But the Union of Youth and the Russian futurist bookworks continue.
   Khlebnikov writes to Guro.  His letters of April 1911 and Jan. 12, 1913 speaks of Don Quixote.
   Guro’s second  book with poetry, prose, and a play is published: Autumnal Dream (Osennii son.)in 1912.  The only poem is ‘“The Grasshoppers (Kuzneciki)”. The elaborated phrase and its sound is repeated  through the play and has onomatopoeic elements.The play has symbolic elements, such as the red rose as a symbol of love and white rose(with blood) as the symbol of death.   Included are fairy tale features. The symbolist poet Vyacheslaw Ivanov’s review of the work is positive. By now the young futurists group no longer gathers around Guro.  “Alexsanr Blok mentions Guro in several places in his diaries and notebook from 1911-12.  They met through their mutual friends, E. A. and A. P Ivanov.. 
   In 1912, 13 and 14.  Russian futurist and Union of Youth books proliferate, with “originality and independent daring and .nothing like them existed in the West.” Milner tells us.  Malivich, Tatlin, Rozanova, Larionov,  David Burlyuk and many others worked closely with the poets Kruchenikh, Khlebnikov, Kamensky, Guro, and Mayakovsky.  Together the painters and poets develop artistic approach and philosophy. 
   In 1913 prose and poetry is included in A Trap for Judges 2, published by Matjushin under his publishing name ZHURAVL and with Livshits, and Nikolai Burlick. Also included is a new  manifesto signed by many of the Slap in the Face Crowd.   It uses the modernized orthography.  New to the publication were Mayakovsky a frequent visitor to Guro’s house,  and Kruchenykh and Livsic. Guro was still the only women in this crowd. She also took part in the futurist notorious March meeting..
The Manifesto is the only one which Guro ever signs and it 
“contains the first major statements about 
the visual level in literature. among the ‘new principles of creativity’ are ‘1. We have stopped considering word formation and word pronunciation according to grammatical rules, having come to see in letters only what guides speech’..2. We have come to ascribe content to words according to their graphic phonetic characteristics...It is noteworthy that the graphic determine content”.
There are a total of nine laws of poetic practices for the new literature.  
“These are publishing handwritten books, unitial-rhyme and internal rhyme, the distortion of rhythm, the new concept of vowels as time and space, consonants as colors, sound and smell.The signing of the manifesto was more the signing of an agreement to stand as a group in protest against the literary establishment.”  
She has two small prose pieces ready for The Union of Youth III. One contains these words by Guro:
“But we, if we die, die with complete faith in the immortality of the body and in the openspace!  And our death is only a mistake, a failure of the incapable- for we are the inheritors of inertia.”
   In the same year, 1913, after her death, two small prose pieces are in The Union of Youth. Khlebnikov’s letter to Guro’s husband says of her late works: ‘Here the cloak of mercy falls on the entire animal world, and people merit compassion, like the ‘little camels of the sky’”  Some poems are in The Three (Troe),published in her memory, by Matiushin,  with the help of Malevich, Kruchenykh and Khlebnikovin   It is possible that Guro herself works on the Artists’ Book, with them, just before her death.  Matiushin dedicates the bookwork to her..
   Discussion of The Three (Troe): (a shame I can not read it and don’t know where to find it in one piece).. So here are parts of  analysis which I use as description, without my evaluation. 
Milner thinks  that The Three “united new spatial concepts with the new study of words.” Quote from the unsigned introduction in The Three.
‘The days are not far when the conquered phantoms of three-dimensional space, of illusory drop-shaped time and of cowardly causality...will reveal before everyone what they have always been in reality - the annoying bars of a cage in which the human spirit is imprisoned’.
   The cover and images are by Malevich and dedicated to Guro. Compton believes that Malevich’s image possibly titled ’Pilot’ which appears opposite p. 82 in  The Three,  is “most elaborate and original, shows an aviator set among the parts of his aeroplane”  As she thinks it shares its  “ingredients from literature, full-stops, commas hurling through an instant in cosmic space” with Guro, capturing a line from the poem on its facing page.  
‘the visionary who has been set on fire with such terrible sonorous light’.  
At the same time, she believes this drawing is “close in spirit to lines written by Kruchenyk in Act II of Victory over the Sun: ‘
‘liberated from the weight of earth’s gravitation we whimsically arrange our belongings as if a rich kingdom were moving’”
   Perloff sees Three as an “example of the interaction of modes, genres and media within the covers of a single Futurist book....” 
Troe brings together at least six generic forms characteristic of this period.  There is, notably, not a single sort lyric in the volume.  Rather, we find (1) manifesto (Matyushin’s preface, Kruchenykh’s ... ‘New Ways of the Word’); (2) topographical poem.(Khlebnikov’s ‘Khadzi-Tarkan’; (3) prose poem (Guro’s ‘The Secret or Picasso’s Violin’); (4) digressive short story or what we might call ‘the short story written as a poem’ (Khlebnikov’s ‘Hunter Usa-gali’ and ‘Nikolai’; (5) free prose improvisation (Kruchenykh’s ‘From Sahara to America’ and (6) satiric portrait (Kruchenykh’s ‘Of Contemporaries’)”  
Also four drawings by Malevich and “a reproduction of the opening bars of Matyushin’s Victory over the Sun with the text by Kruchenykh.  She discussed more in her essay.  Another account says that there is an entire section for Guro, with many pieces, none of which were published before, a few of which will be included in Camels.  The poems may be inspired by Finland and her house in the countryside. One is Picasso’s Violin others are play with neologisms such as ‘Words of Love and Warmth’ and two prose works. One describes her relation to the futurist friends, and that she watched over them as a mother.  The other prose piece is “very passionate address to writer, artist and other dreamers to remain faithful to their dreams and ideals:
The dream - you have given it life - and the dream lives; what we have created no longer belongs to us, as ourselves no longer belong to ourselves. 
   Both Guro’s poem “The City” and Krucenyx ’s ‘To the Memory of Elena Guro. From the notebook of A. Krucenyx” are published in 1914, in purely Cubo-futurist publication Roaring Parnassus. 
   Some of Guro’s pieces from Judges and others never published,  are included in (Nebesnye verblyuzhata) Baby or Little Camels of the Sky, in 1914.  
   Her works and those of another dead woman artist, Olga Rozanova are exhibited with a large group of artists living both in and out of the country in the 1927 touring exhibition of cities in Russian cities.
   Russian critics and historians take a brief interest in Elena Guro.  Her name is mentioned here and there.  But she has not ever had the attention she would have hoped for.

A Prose/poetry-(some may say short story). “An Impulse” Translated by Milica Benjanin, The Ardis Anthology of Russian Futurism. Ellendea and Carl R. Proffer eds.  Ann Arbor: 1980. pp. 139-142
Some of the poems and the cover of  “Little Camels in the Sky.”
The Ardis Anthology... pp. 114-132.  
AND Elena Guro Little Camels in the Sky.. published by Ardis same translator 1983 But more poems and her images  I do not know if all of these were in the original, nor if the reproduced poems in the Anthology are the original number.


Stephanie Barron and Maurice Tuchman The Avant-Garde in Russia, 1910-1930: New Perspectives.LA County Museum Exhibition Cat. LA: 1980.

John E. Bowlt. “A slap in the Face of Public Taste: The Art of the Book and the Russian Avant-Garde” in Russian Samizdat Art, Ed. Charles Doria , NY: 1986.

Susan P. Compton. The World Backwards: Russian Futurist Books 1912-16. London, 1978.

Camilla Gray.The Russian Experiment in Art : 1863-1922.   NY: 1970 from 1962 format London 

Elena Guro. Elena Guro.:The Little Camels of the Sky. Kevin O’brien  Translator, Ardis Ann Arbor:1983 

Gerald Janecek. The Look of Russian Literature: Avant-Garde Visual Experiments, 1900-1930. Princeton, 1984.

Kjeld Bjornager Jensen. Russian futurism, Urbanism and Elena Guro. Arkon Denmark:1977

.John  Milner,Vladimir Tatlin and the Russian Avant-Garde.New Haven and London: 1983.

Ellendea and Carl Proffer eds.  The Ardis Anthology. of Russian Futurism. Ann Arbor: 1980 

Marjorie Perloff. The Futurist Moment: Avant-Garde, Avant Guerre, and the Language of Rupture. Chicago: 1986. 

Victor Terrios ed.Handbook of Russian Literature, New Haven and London:1985.

বুধবার, ২১ নভেম্বর, ২০১৮

Afterword by karl kempton. An explanation (for our erratic behaviour)

This visual-text-art-blog-anthology contains visual poetry, minimalist poetry, book art, mail art, word painting, contemporary calligraphy, word sculpture, visual-text-centered collage, visual-text-centered photography, mathematical poetry and other kindred expressions with a deep history back to rock art. The blog is a kind of "second volume" of illustrations for my book a history of visual text art (Apple Pie Editions 2018). A download of this book will be publicly available early 2019 from www.applepie-editions.co.uk

Doris Cross. Living / Lock

Work in this selection can be traced through various pathways back into the deep history of rock art. The oldest surviving visual art communications from the past are found in rock petroglyph and pictograph art. It would be unthinkable not to suspect older visual communication art existed on materials unable to survive destructive environmental conditions. Human ancestors’ aesthetic moments found in tool making in many instances predate by hundreds of thousands of years the earliest known rock art forms uncovered in Southern Africa dating 72,000 years ago. Globally, rock art forms traveled onto portable objects such as wood, hide and leaf before gracing pottery and other objects and later velum and paper. Some evolved into ideograms, hieroglyphs and others eventually script. This part of their journey has only begun to be recorded and discussed by researchers uncovering symbols transcribed, pecked or painted 15,000 and more years ago on cave walls miles distant from one another. There are distinct Neanderthal symbol possibilities as well further lengthening symbolic art’s age.

Some cultures take for granted, as seen in their cosmologies, the material world born from a word. In such understandings, layers from the most subtle resonance descend into grosser layers of distinct sound densities until they form the world we daily experience. This may be summed as “from phoneme to phenomena.” Some hold each individual a letter in a book already written by the primary scribe of the speaker of the creative word. Others experience that the scribe writing the book causes movement and thus time. These and others developed sacred — esoteric — teachings about the letters or glyph forms of the language associated with the undefinable being. Latin and Cyrillic alphabet lores have no such understandings. That their lore did not harbor the Mother tongue of its holy deity formed a structural weakness allowing the near fatal assault by the printing press on their calligraphy. Eastward, Semitic and Asian calligraphies survived and continue to flourish in new cross fertilizations of old traditions mixing with new materials and ideas. The exception may be China having been conquered by Western materialism that (one might argue) led indirectly to the extremism of the Red Guard’s activities. Out of this cultural destruction, the blend of the surviving old into the emerging new, remains a work in progress.

Untitled. Bin Qulander

Among developments influencing visual text art at this moment is the Islamic Science of Letters informing its Sufi influenced word and seer painters. The Islamic Science of Letters has deep roots from the past spreading across vast regions from India, north along the Silk Road from China, pre-Islamic Persia, Byzantium, Egypt, Greece and across North Africa to Spain. The influence of Sufi influenced word painters remains ignored by most writers discussing European, North and South American, Japanese and Australian visual poetics and other visual text arts. Visual poetry, coined in 1965, evolved from several pathways. One such pathway runs from the French Lettrist development of hypergraphics, a hybrid of French, Arabic and Persian word painters. Another group of word painters, the Art Informel, wider in its international membership, included one of the Lettrist Persian word painters. This group welcomed the Tunisian, Nja Mahdaoui, who has become a major figure in visual text art (he is in fact the first artist featured in the timeline of my Co-Editor Philip Davenport's DARK WOULD anthology, virtual volume, 2013). Among Nja Mahdaoui's many genres, his series of Calligrammes (and graphemes )lifted a type begun by Apollinaire into unexpected and unparalleled achievement (http://www.nja-mahdaoui.com/artwork-category/parchment/) His is one example of many significant Islamic word painters ignored by concrete and visual poets in need of eye opening. Other pathways were cleared by disgruntled and disillusioned concrete poets and post-concrete individuals world-wide breaking the imposed barriers who fused poetic text and gestures with other arts.

While concrete poetry has its story of its own roots — Mallarmé, the concept of a pictorial not phonetic Chinese ideogram, the Italian Futurists, the Russian avant-guard, Apollinaire and his calligrammes — they either overlooked, ignored or consciously tried to erase individuals, groups, word painting and other types of visual text art. Many are those I call missing-in-action. Henri-Martin Barzun influneced Apollinaire and the Italian Futurists. From the New York Stieglitz Circle came America’s first painted words, visual poetry and painted and drawn iconographic text art before WW1 and before Apollinaire’s calligrammes. Individuals continued providing important works until the death of Georgia O’Keefe. Many word painters created significant works between the world wars that still outshine many concrete or visual poetry works. There is much more.

Socrates: Some god or divine man, who in the Egyptian legend is said to have been Theuth, observing that the human voice was infinite, first distinguished in this infinity a certain number of vowels, and then other letters which had sound, but were not pure vowels (i.e., the semivowels); these too exist in a definite number; and lastly, he distinguished a third class of letters which we now call mutes, without voice and without sound, and divided these, and likewise the two other classes of vowels and semivowels, into the individual sounds, told the number of them, and gave to each and all of them the name of letters; and observing that none of us could learn any one of them and not learn them all, and in consideration of this common bond which in a manner united them, he assigned to them all a single art, and this he called the art of grammar or letters.
Philebus (18), Plato

Similarly, as it seems to me, the wise of Egypt - whether in precise knowledge or by a prompting of nature - indicated the truth where, in their effort towards philosophical statement, they left aside the writing-forms that take in the detail of words and sentences - those characters that represent sounds and convey the propositions of reasoning - and drew pictures instead, engraving in the temple- inscriptions a separate image for every separate item: thus they exhibited the mode in which the Supreme goes forth.
The Six Enneads, Plotinus (V.8.6)

Worldwide, indigenous and colonized artists picked up western art materials and forms and merging their own historical pathways of creative visual text or visual iconographics, created groups paralleling the Islamic word painters. Instead of text, however, iconographic forms rooted in their deep past moved onto canvas. One such evolution began in the early 1900s in New Mexico out of which developed a distinctive First Peoples’ iconographic art later to evolve into Abstract Symbolism and other defined types. American First Peoples’ iconographic art quickly spread throughout America and Canada forming many styles geographically rooted into local traditional visual symbol vocabularies.

An ignored example of back and forth influence between First People iconographic artists was with visiting and relocated individuals from the Stieglitz Circle and members of the Transcendental Group. The Transcendental Group was founded in 1938 in Santa Fe and disbanded in1942 because of the war. At times some of them painted within the visual text art frame. Before this moment, several First People artists from different nations had added to their pallets what learned from their New Mexico area counterparts; this laid the foundation of the above mentioned wider spectrum of approaches.

Raymond Jonson of the Transcendental Group became a faculty member of the University of New Mexico. Jonson had been a student of an exiled Russian Futurist while living in Chicago before moving to Santa Fe. (https://eye-of-the-artist.tumblr.com/post/48277336080/raymond-jonson-variation-on-rhythm-e-33x29, http://www.michaelrosenfeldart.com/artists/raymond-jonson-1891-1982/selected-works/1 )

During his tenure after the WW2 he taught classes attended by See Ru (Joe H. Herrera), a iconographic painter, who coined the term abstract symbolism. To expand his visual lexicon he traveled extensively throughout New Mexico and Arizona studying ancient rock art panels, pottery and other art. This is one of many examples of far flung pathways of visual text art mixing with indigenous iconographic traditions, forming something new. But. This new in the States is so bright, to this day it remains unseen by the main stream and avant-garde. Gilbert Atencio’s works are presented on the web more so than Herrera’s whose works are available in books. Since I have no direct contact with any contemporary icongraphic painters, my appreciation and studies have been through available web and book publications. Thus, a few links for Gilbert Atencio and Helen Hardin suggest the available wealth for the interested.

Gilbert Atencio
“Corn Dancers and Clown” and “Dog Dance” https://www.mutualart.com/Artwork/Dog-Dance/C29C52E119FDED09
 “Eagle Dancers” and “Eagle Dancer” http://www.arcadja.com/auctions/en/atencio_gilbert/artist/358489/
A large collection containing many iconographic works: https://www.firstpeople.us/FP-Html-Pictures/Pictures-Myths-page1.html 

Polar opposites frequent Islamic calligraphy, deep in its Science of Letters, pregnant with hidden meanings in which the many iconographic levels are known only by initiates. Sufi-influenced calligraphy manipulates and counterpoints these polarities, enhancing tensions in order to fine-tune the multilayered beauty of the final expression that a hidden energy of an essence or energies of veiled essences may be uncovered or suggested. Some polarities specific to calligraphy, text arts, and the transformative and symbolic meanings of letters, their particles, and words mainly imprinted by Ibn ‘Arabī are straight and curved, thick and thin, descending and ascending, horizontal and vertical, sayable and unsayable (except through symbolic allusion), contraction and expansion, extinction and permanence, union and separation, outwardness and inwardness, proximity and distance, absolute and conditional, projection and reception, speech as writing in air and the penned word, subtle and corse, drunkenness and sobriety (spiritual states), physical and metaphysical, obscure and luminous, micro and macro, manifested and unmanifested, attribute and no attribute, and veiled and unveiled. Speech is considered writing in air. Writing with ink signifies letters entering into manifestation (about which volumes have been written). The calligraphers and visual text artists of the past and present diligently practiced to master these and other components. 

(Extract from “The Science of Letters,” A History of Visual Text Art by karl kempton www.applepie-editions.co.uk  p. 442)

Among the divisive coinages left over from European hegemony is the term "oriental' for nations east of it. An irony may be found here. “Occidental” alphabets have been reduced to dead material that their visual text artists have to manipulate to resuscitate. Those "oriented" such that their alphabet letters remain alive within their traditions simply maintain this life form, rooted in beauty’s way. This can be said too of indigenous iconographic painters rendering their unique beauty. To give one example, who stands for many here: the word painter Chaled Res intends to create a universal language experience. Through artistic philosophical thinking, through the culture of the eye, through sources of meditations reflected from private moments, and through the play of colors, shapes, and letters, he expresses his sense of the full impact of the technical and sacred to realize, to actualize, art that comes from within the privacy of self. He, from an individual specific moment, expresses the universal. 

With these words, we see. 

karl kempton
Written in a burning California 
Nov 2018

মঙ্গলবার, ৬ নভেম্বর, ২০১৮

Lynn Zinyaw

EGO cage, carry, catch, drive

Lynn Zinyaw

published his first solo poetry collection ‘Machine Gun’ in 2014. He recently started his project ‘Burmese Alphabet Concrete Visual Art’, in which he created Typography and Visual Art/Poetry by using Burmese alphabets. He is a co-founder of Burmese Vispo Website www.burmesevispo.com 

মঙ্গলবার, ৩০ অক্টোবর, ২০১৮

Paul Zelevansky

Six vimeo links to animations by Paul Zelevansky. 







Paul Zelevansky 

is an artist and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. His work includes animation, video, artists books, theoretical writing, performance, graphic design and teaching. He has an EdD in art education from Columbia University Teachers’ College, and has published widely on the use of text and image, the internet, popular culture and educational and aesthetic theory. His website, GREAT BLANKNESS (www.greatblankness.com), advances a form of visual metaphysics, as fragments of words, images, video, and sampled sound and music interact and combine to form new narratives. He has published several visual novels (artists books) including THE BOOK OF TAKES, THE CASE FOR THE BURIAL OF ANCESTORS trilogy, THE SHADOW ARCHITECTURE AT THE CROSSROADS ANNUAL, and MONKEY & MAN. His visual primer 24 IDEAS ABOUT PICTURES, develops a phenomenological approach to visual thinking that integrates theory and practice. Finally his video project, MISTER ROGERS FOR ADULTS--based on the work of Fred Rogers--explores the power of ethical thinking in a media context. All of this work is ultimately in the service of epistemological and philosophical ends: How do we know what we know, and why do we believe what we believe?

"While I have some detailed descriptions about particular animations, no one has written in general terms about the animations and videos. But I have written quite a bit about the working of language and image, so here’s a short section from a book of visual/verbal essays I’m putting together called SOMETHING IS ALSO SOMETHING ELSE. In any event, my conceptual approach and thinking is the same whether on the page or the screen:

'I’d like to help you out. Which way did you come in?'
(Henny Youngman)

"...My project has been to start with a basic epistemological problem--how do we know what we know?--and to use pictures, symbols, texts, and commonplace things as both evidence and the raw material for the research. Since much of my work as an artist and writer has involved the interpretation and manipulation of symbols and pictures, it embraces art, semiotics, visual culture, and design. Most importantly, this involves using images to dramatically enact ideas on the page, and in turn asking the reader or viewer to self-consciously reflect on how this unfolds. Like a text, a picture is the product of a communicative language, incorporating accepted meanings and prescribed uses, as well as unorthodox associations and interpretations. Made up of lines, shapes, colors, tones, and iconography, pictures can be read in terms of the formal compositional choices made by those who produce them, but also understood in their relationship to other pictures. Therefore images are not solely representative examples of their type and function, but appeals to active visual thinking: graphic calls in anticipation of a response.

"When a picture is presented as an example of, or commentary on, reality, it takes its stand in a particular medium or form. It is a portrait, a sketch, a diagram, a cartoon, a photograph, and so on. This list does not begin to describe the type and style of portrait or sketch, no less the circumstances in which it is framed and justified. Where I often begin is to take apart the graphic style and form and then pass it through questions like: Why would someone make this? How does its history, context, and use affect its reach into everyday life? How does it express its concerns and expectations? How do we respond? Finally, why should anyone invest in the exchange?"