The Artist as Poet: Selections from PAMM's Collection

"The Artist as Poet" spans 10 decades between 1917 and 2017 and represent how language—specifically poetry—is used in contemporary art, while shedding light on Surrealism’s influence.

Glenda León. El Libro de la Fe [The Book of Faith] / 2015 / Artist book made up with the pages of The Noble Coran, The Holy Bible, The Anguttara Nikaya, The Chumash y Baghavad-Gita / 26 x 18 x 4 cm. © Estudio Glenda León

"The Artist as Poet: Selections from PAMM’s Collection" is a multi-media group exhibition of rarely-seen works from PAMM’s extensive permanent collection that addresses Surrealism, the subconscious, and poetic language in contemporary art. Spanning ten decades between 1917 and 2017, the works represent how language -specifically poetry– is used in contemporary art, while shedding light on Surrealism’s profound influence.
By placing contemporary artworks in dialogue with works from decades earlier, such as the 1930s and 40s, the exhibition creates a unique conversation about a rarely discussed topic within art history: the poème-objet (poem-object). The exhibition includes works by Guillaume Apollinaire, André Breton, Joseph Cornell, Aimée García Marrero, Glenda León, Maria Martinez-Cañas, Gordon Matta-Clark, Shirin Neshat, Michael Richards, Ed Ruscha, Purvis Young, Tim Rollins + K.O.S. (Kids of Survival), and more.
“This is an exhibition that has been in the works for a long time. It was the premise of my Master’s thesis years ago and a story I’ve always wanted to tell. Language and poetry is something all of our viewers will be able to interpret in their own way, so the show is accessible while simultaneously shedding a light on a rich Surrealist tradition of self-reflection through the creation of the poem-object,” said Maritza Lacayo, Curatorial Assistant and Publications Coordinator.
This show underscores the expansiveness and unique character of PAMM’s permanent collection, both in date range and medium. “In the last five years we have doubled our collection and this inventive curatorial project by Maritza Lacayo is exactly the type of creative engagement with the collection that we seek to present to our diverse audiences,” said PAMM Director Franklin Sirmans.
These artists have experimented with language in myriad ways, by incorporating text in the works themselves and by giving the works poetic or playful titles. Included in the exhibition are handmade books, paintings, found objects, constructions, and collage works—the flat precursor to the threedimensional Surrealist object. Exhibition highlights include an original softcover book by André Breton, rare box constructions and collages by Joseph Cornell, and a never before exhibited large scale work made of book pages on linen by Tim Rollins + K.O.S (Kids of Survival).
André Breton, who is best known as the principal founder of Surrealism, defines a poème-objet as “a composition which combines the resources of poetry and plastic art, and thus speculates on the capacity of these two elements to excite each other mutually.” Language can be subversive in a descriptive and literal way, not only when it functions metaphorically. The idea of using language to subvert the function of an object is what all these artists have in common. Selected from PAMM’s permanent collection and from the Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry, these works explore what it means to classify the “artist as poet.”