Visual Poetry in Europe

Imago Mundi

Catalogue of the Imago Mundi Collection: Visual Poetry in Europe, Visual Poetry in Europe, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
“Take a newspaper. Take a pair of scissors. Choose an article as long as you are planning to make your poem. Cut out the article. Then cut out each of the words that make up this article and put them in a bag. Shake it gently. Then take out the scraps one after the other in the order in which they left the bag. Copy conscientiously. The poem will be like you. And here are you a writer, infinitely original and endowed with a sensibility that is charming though beyond the understanding of the vulgar.”
Vittore Baroni - Imago Mundi (for Jorge Luis Borges), Vittore Baroni, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi

Vittore Baroni - Imago Mundi (for Jorge Luis Borges) (2015)

The recipe of the Romanian-born French artist-poet- essayist Tristan Tzara for creating a Dadaist poem imparts, with simplicity, that precise but random encounter (or vice versa) between word and symbol of the word, play and provocation, originality and convention, irony and smirk, which is the basis of much of what we consider avant-garde art.

Stathis Chrissicopulos - Libagione, Stathis Chrissicopulos, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi

Stathis Chrissicopulos - Libagione (2015)

These are ideas and concepts of the aesthetics of rupture that, with declamatory prose, Tzara had explored in the Dada Manifesto of 1918: “The new painter creates a world, the elements of which are also its implements, a sober, definite work without argument. The new artist protests: he no longer paints (symbolic and illusionist reproduction) but creates directly in stone, wood, iron, tin, boulders-locomotive organisms capable of being turned in all directions by the limpid wind of momentary sensation.”

Vladimir Smoylar - Tractatus, Vladimir Smoylar, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi

Vladimir Smoylar - Tractatus (2015)

It was, and still is, a question of replacing the old with a new way of doing: a renewed poetic of symbols, for example, able to juxtapose, overlap, assemble and incorporate writing with image, drawing, graphics, photography, collage, décollage. To reach – as in the case of this particular collection of Imago Mundi artworks – the artistic dimension of Visual Poetry, a phenomenon that began to develop in the Fifties, in the fiery climate of European neo-avant-garde.

Bartolomé Ferrando - Little composition, Bartolomé Ferrando, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi

Bartolomé Ferrando - Little composition (2015)

Antic-Ham - R, Antic-Ham, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi

Antic-Ham - R (2015)

The close and versatile relationship between image and the written word has ancient origins. In addition to having a sense and a sound related to linguistic conventions, the letters – the graphemes – are also graphic symbols that derive from images. For example, it is thought that the letter “A”, the first letter of the Roman alphabet and of many other alphabets, derives from the transcription of the Phoenician word alph (bull) whose graphic symbol was used for its resemblance, in the Phoenician script, to a bull’s head.

Claudio Francia - Poesismo, Claudio Francia, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi

Claudio Francia - Poesismo (2015)

This close relationship between word and image was not lost on the medieval illuminators who transformed the initial letter of a text into a small work of figurative art based on the geometric shapes of the various initials. Some types of script, moreover – Arabic, Chinese, Japanese – are art forms in themselves.

Julien Blaine - La fabrication du rouge, Julien Blaine, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi

Julien Blaine - La fabrication du rouge (2015)

Mauro Dal Fior - La poesia s’onora!, Mauro Dal Fior, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi

Mauro Dal Fior - La poesia s’onora! (2015)

In the 1918 work Calligrammes by Guillaume Apollinaire, the graphic arrangement of words on the page forms a drawing. Combining the Greek adjective kalós (beautiful) and the noun gramma (from gráphõ, writing in Greek), the word calligram itself underscores how the script is a form of beauty. The French poet draws on a tradition of the Middle Ages – at the time these exercises in writing were called carmina figurata – and emphasizes how a calligram is an amalgamation of symbols, drawing and thought. For him the word is liberated from its instrumental role and becomes an art object: “Et moi aussi, je suis peintre.”

Luc Fierens - Violetta, Luc Fierens, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi

Luc Fierens - Violetta (2015)

The onomatopoeic effect becomes the protagonist in the free words (or Words-In-Freedom) of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, the Futurist poet who rebelled against, and went beyond, the composure of
the written page: “Instead we use all the brutal sounds, all the expressive cries of the violent life that surrounds us. Let us boldly create the “ugly” in literature and kill solemnity wherever it may be. And don’t put on those high-priest airs when you listen to me. We must spit every day on the Altar of Art. We are entering the limitless domains of free intuition. After free verse, here at last are words in freedom!”

Giovanni Fontana - Sound Poem, Giovanni Fontana, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi

Giovanni Fontana - Sound Poem (2015)

Julián Alonso - Arte, Julián Alonso, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi

Julián Alonso - Arte (2015)

As a model he proposes the volume ZANG TUMB TUUUM, Adrianople October 1912, printed in Milan in 1914, the title of which intends to reproduce the noise of the howitzer, a large calibre firearm used during the First Balkan War, in which Marinetti had participated.

Franco Spena - Imago Cordis Mundi, Franco Spena, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi

Franco Spena - Imago Cordis Mundi (2015)

Again in the early decades of the twentieth century, another artist, Paul Klee departed from painting to write in a completely different way, creating, in this case, a relationship between text, shapes and colours. A good example is the work Once Emerged from the Gray of Night, a poem written in German in 1918 and represented in delicate watercolour. Each letter is inserted in a square, in turn subdivided into other geometric shapes by the letter it contains. The colour choices vary according to the concepts expressed in the text, so the grey of the night is in dull tones, fire is matched to red, blue is a prevalence of cold tones.

Carmine Lubrano - Tarantelle Poetry, Carmine Lubrano, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi

Carmine Lubrano - Tarantelle Poetry (2015)

In the Thirties, Klee deepened the relationship between text and image by inventing the so- called pseudo-graphemes, minimal symbols of a new primitive alphabet that strongly resembled hieroglyphics and Eastern scripts. And, fifty years later, but not very far removed from the poetics of Klee, Alighiero Boetti created beautifully embroidered fabrics; geometric grids of coloured letters in which sequences often lose their verbal sense to become playful. His daughter Agata recently recalled (in the book Gameplan): “My father’s work is a game, a multitude of games, very different from the complex, intellectual analysis voiced by the critics.”

Roberto Scala - Imago Mundi Poetry, Roberto Scala, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi

Roberto Scala - Imago Mundi Poetry (2015)

Written, drawn, declaimed, cancelled, the word, therefore, has been a fundamental element of the experimentation of the twentieth century avant-garde, and its presence has often accompanied changes in artistic poetics, creating audacious expressive forms.

Evelina Schatz - Sono una vera stoica, Evelina Schatz, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi

Evelina Schatz - Sono una vera stoica (2015)

Josef Bauer - Red, Josef Bauer, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi

Josef Bauer - Red (2015)

Since the Sixties, the relationship between word and image – and consequently the relationship between art and literature – has become part of a chaotic and vibrant universe that includes artistic movements such as Pop Art, Fluxus, Body Art, Arte Povera, Minimalism and Conceptual Art. This was clearly evident in the exhibition The word in art at the Mart of Rovereto in 2007, which brought together paintings, drawings, posters, art books, literary works, collages and large installations, whose focus was “the sublime hybrid of the cross-fertilization of the languages of art.”

Marco Gerbi - Domande senza risposta, Marco Gerbi, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi

Marco Gerbi - Domande senza risposta (2015)

The Imago Mundi collection dedicated to Visual Poetry continues in the same vein – 210 works by European artists – which, in the best tradition of rhetorical discourse, is a thematic digression from the geographic grouping of the work-in-progress of the global map of art. A digression that in fact emphasizes the highly experimental nature of Imago Mundi and, indeed, the richness that is inspired by the meeting of many different cultural languages.

Ludo Frateur - La personne, Ludo Frateur, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi

Ludo Frateur - La personne (2015)

Concentrated in the 10x12 cm format, the radiance of the text-image, instead of being diminished by the miniature form, appears to undergo a revival, driven by the imagination of the artists opening themselves to new spaces of iconic-poetic symbolism. This intriguing collection reminds us that every artistic language, of word and of image, is both the riddle and its solution. And it is above all – in the words of the poet, art critic and ingenious experimenter Emilio Villa – an amazing way to advance, beyond appearances and without prejudice, in the infinite creation of the world:

“and always before, way before, so you can almost enunciate the form or speak the figure, the water has already spoken on its own, now et ab aeterno, everything
and the original footprint.”

Nicola Frangione - Moviment mundi, Nicola Frangione, 2015, From the collection of: Imago Mundi

Nicola Frangione - Moviment mundi (2015)

Credits: Story

Art Direction, Photography and Production

Project Management
—Fondazione Sarenco


Project Coordinator
—Oriano Mabellini

—Valentina Granzotto

Editorial coordination
—Enrico Bossan

—Luciano Benetton

Editing and translation
—Carlo Antonio Biscotto
—Emma Cole
—Pietro Valdatta

Art Direction
—Marcello Piccinini

—Marco Zanin (artworks)

—Marco Pavan

—Fernando Aguiar (Essay for a new expression o writing)

Special thanks
—Julien Blaine
—Bartolomé Ferrando
—Giovanni Fontana
—Fernando Aguiar
—Evelina Schatz
—Abdulmalik Mabellini
—Oksana Ignatush

Credits: All media
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