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Princenthal, Nancy—Art on Paper
Princenthal, Nancy. "Artist's Book Beat." Art On Paper (May- June 2001): 94- 95.

Another strong assortment of page art, visual poetry, and other hardy hybrids is available in Poetry Plastique, which accompanied a February exhibition at Marianne Boesky Gallery (Boesky co-published the book with Granary Books in New York, 2001). Both publication and show, and also an unusually lively day-long series of panels, film screenings, and readings, were co-organized by Jay Sanders, an intrepid new curator at the gallery, and poet Charles Bernstein. "We organized a show of art overrun by poetry and a show of poetry riddled with art," says Sanders. "Not words and pictures but poems as visual objects (read: subjects)," Bernstein adds.

Some of the works were best seen in the round (a wonderful spiraling word sculpture made collaboratively by Bernstein and Richard Tuttle, for instance), while others (a visual poem by Emily McVarish, a "folding pattern from Yesterday's Tomorrow," by Darren Wershler-Henry) thrive in book form. The black-and-white paperback, which doesn't reproduce everything in the show (or even contain a checklist), has 29 entries under the heading "Essays" by such contributors as Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge, Robert Creeley, Kenneth Goldsmith, Jason Mac Low, Tom Phillips, and Mira Schor. Given the disparate inclinations and anarchic tendencies these artists represent it is hardly surprising that several depart considerably from conventional expository prose.

Among the younger participants, Tan Lin, whose work in the show ran on flat-screen monitors, here offers a thoughtful if rather harsh assessment of current prospects for his medium ("The time for poems written with words is over... Today, no poem should be written to be read and the best form of reading would make all our feelings disappear the moment we were having them"). Earlier work can seem, by comparison, sweetly ingenuous, though ignoring it has been costly. Thus David Antin's Skypoems, produced in 1987- 88 by skywriting airplanes—a great idea that has occurred to at least two artists since. And thus Michael Snow's 1982 word-based (and imageless) film, written to a standard of verbal economy—and intelligent humor—still eminently worth following.

Nancy Princenthal, one of Art On Paper's contributing editors, writes this column regularly for the magazine.

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