September 14, 2008

Ashbery and Naves: Completing the circle

This month well respected art critics Mario Naves and John Ashbery both present their collages in New York. In the NY Sun, David Cohen covers both shows. "Is there something intrinsic to the appeal of collage to writers — to moving bits of paper around in startling, revelatory juxtapositions? The coincidence of two shows of collages by writers of markedly different ilk — a sometime poet laureate and a member of the third estate — raises the question. John Ashbery is the subject of a display of collages, from those made during his undergraduate days at Harvard in the late 1940s, to a series of pieces from 2008 that use Chutes and Ladders boards as their support. Mario Naves, who is perhaps better known as an art critic for the New York Observer, has his fourth solo exhibition at Elizabeth Harris Gallery since 2001."

In the NY Times, Holland Cotter met with Ashbery in his Chelsea apartment. "To Mr. Ashbery the intermingling of artist and writer always made sense, because he was both, though his primary ambition while growing up in rural upstate New York was to be a painter. And not just any kind of painter, but a Surrealist....Mr. Ashbery’s artistic ambitions stayed high until 1945 when he got to Harvard, where, for practical reasons, they died down. 'There was no place to paint, so I stopped,' he says. But by then he was already writing a lot of poetry and starting to do collage. In addition to being the perfect dorm-room art, collage is the ideal writer’s art, not just because it can incorporate words, but because it can be done on a desk. You lay out your paper, glue and scissors, push aside the computer — or the typewriter, which Mr. Ashbery still uses for poetry — and you’re set to go....After talking about the past and worrying about the present, Mr. Ashbery says, as if slightly surprising himself, that making collages 'sort of stimulates my writing — there’s no fear of having my energy drained away.' A visitor ventures the idea that maybe, in some way, not directly, or definitively, the collages, and his critical writing, and his poetry, are all interrelated, and that the show ties a little knot? Mr. Ashbery considers this. Yes, he says, 'I can see how this completes the circle.'"

"Mario Naves: Postcards From Florida," Elizabeth Harris Gallery, New York, NY. through Oct. 4.
"John Ashbery: Collages: They Knew What They Wanted," Tibor De Nagy, New York, NY, Through Oct. 4.

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