Poetry News

Bear Witness to Jackson Mac Low and Gerhard Richter at Jacket 2

By Harriet Staff


Yes! What could be a better way to get your Tuesday going than with this lovely article by Patrick Durgin on the cross-overs between Jackson Mac Low and Gerhard Richter, now ready at Jacket 2. Brain food:

Last week I began with the installed environment, moved on to surfaces (painted or printed), and emerged into “ambiance.” This week I will consider how chance is deployed to install some essential attribute of the outside, inside of a work. Since visual prosody is the theme of these commentaries, “a work” refers equally to a poem or an image. The environment tailored to resemble itself there is given a voice by an artist who avoids using their own. Essential attributes of the artist’s material should reveal its relation to an outside, and a politics of visual or verbal relation beheld there. My examples are the Asymmetries and Forties by poet Jackson Mac Low and two iterations of the Colors series by painter Gerhard Richter. Mac Low and Richter are equally motivated to exhaust the forces named by “chance” and its cognates so as to question received critical values and to essentialize aesthetic values of their media.

In 1960-1, Mac Low composed 501 “numbered Asymmetries.” An asymmetry is a form based on the aleatoric, random, or “chance” allotment of alphabetic units, usually phrases, along a grid from left to right, top to bottom, to produce poems with (blank) spatial cues for performance. That is, the blank space of the page cues a more or less lengthened silence. By performance is meant a whole range of treatments of any given poem, from individual oral recitation to group performance involving movement, instruments, and other media. These poems partially reinvent prosodic conventions, especially meter, where the “emphasis” or “stress” falls. [...]

Learn more at Jacket 2.

Originally Published: August 19th, 2014