cambridge concrete poetry explosion

It's all happening in Cambridge at the moment. I saw two very different but equally compelling 1960s-focussed concrete shows there last week. Kettle's Yard are focusing on Finlay under the brilliant title Beauty and Revolution: The Poetry and Art of Ian Hamilton Finlay . Poetry comes first here, as IHF would have agreed. He would have also liked the angle his long-term confidant Stephen Bann has taken through his curation. There is a wonderful tension in Finlay's work, which is played around with here, of walking peaceably through gardens of language across invisible wires and overhanging guillotines. All of his passions are brought into play into the smallish space of the gallery which gives a sense of how the artist was continually moving around inside his obsessions, surprising himself as well as others.

That was followed by the Private View of Graphic Constellations: Visual Poetry and the Properties of Space. This exhibition looks back at the 1964 First International Exhibition of Concrete, Kinetic and Phonetic Poetry which took place in Cambridge and asks a significant question for this cross-art form: how did visual poetry push and play around with physical space, both through typography and sculpture? The highlight for me was seeing the whole run of Hansjorg Mayer's futura series on display on the upper level of the gallery.

It was exciting to see a gathering of original concrete works by poets and artists that will be appearing in a book I've co-edited with Victoria Bean called The New Concrete: Visual Poetry in the 21st Century which will be published by Hayward Publishing in July this year:


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