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Whirl Up Sea: Tate Britain to Exhibit Unseen Vorticist Works

By Harriet Staff

Vorticism, a fairly small, short-lived (1914-1918) English avant-garde art and poetry movement, given its name by Ezra Pound and led by painter Wyndham Lewis, is due for a revival — the last comprehensive show was in 1974, reports The Guardian. The Tate Britain is taking on the charge: The Vorticists: Manifesto for a Modern World is opening today and will be up until September, should you chance to London. As the gallery writes in their release: “The Vorticists forged a distinctive style combining machine-age forms and energetic imagery, embracing modernity and blasting away the staid legacy of the Edwardian past.”

The Guardian notes that the show will be “much more focused than the Hayward’s. It looks in more forensic detail at the vorticist exhibitions held at the Doré Gallery in London in 1915 and the Penguin Club in New York in 1917 as well as the movement’s house journal, Blast, of which there were two editions.” As well, “Curators turned detective to try to find as many of the works originally exhibited as possible, and found three works by the artist Helen Saunders. She was one of at least four women who were an important part of the movement but are often overlooked.” (Another included Dorothy Shakespear, whose “Composition in Blue and Black,” circa 1914-15, is pictured above.)

Verso Books is holding a competition, starting rightnow, to mark the show’s opening. They’ll be giving away Fredric Jameson’s classic book, Fables of Agression: Wyndham Lewis, the Modernist as Fascist, which argues “that he was an essentially political writer in a way that some of his modernist peers (Joyce, Yeats, Pound, Eliot) were not,” along with two of his other books, The Hegel Variations and Representing Capital. To win, as Verso writes, you must answer:

Of whom did Wyndham Lewis say the following?

As even his very appearance suggests, there is nothing whatever eccentric about him. He is not only satisfied with, but enthusiastically embraces his typicalness. So you get in him, cut out in the massive simple lines of a peasant art, the core of the teutonic character.

We’re unclear if the Verso contest is on UK time, but they’re taking US entrants, so more on that here. And a slideshow of works by Lewis, Saunders, Shakespear, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Frederick Etchells and other vorticists can be viewed at the Guardian site.

As for the poetry, we’ve got a plucky run-down ourselves.


Posted in Poetry News on Tuesday, June 14th, 2011 by Harriet Staff.