This show (at Tibor de Nagy Gallery, 724 Fifth Ave, 12th floor) closes Oct. 4th, so if you're anywhere near Manhattan before then check it out.
Ashbery's collages have been written up quite widely for this show, including a long, illustrated article in the NY Times Arts section Sunday before last. The most awarded living poet in the U. S. displays his artwork for the first and possibly only time. Historic, at least to those of us who care.
He says he made many back in the late 1940s when he was at Harvard (where he met Frank O'Hara, among others) but that most of them are lost. But there's a few from that period in the show, and extraordinary they are. He made some more around 1972, when I first met him and we became friends. We were both reading in a poetry series at The Smithsonian, so one of my favorites from that period I try to reproduce here, but for some reason my scanner isn't automatically cropping images anymore, and won't let me do it manually (sometimes I hate all this technology when it seems impossible to get it to work like it's supposed to). I like to think it's his interpretation of our meeting, two poetry super heroes (just kidding) in what in the original is a postcard size collage (actually collage on a postcard that echoes the duo theme by having had the color misapplied creating a ghostly echo of the original Smithsonian building).
[My friend Kevin suggests you can click on the image and see it larger and in more detail.]
Then there are more recent collages, the largest in the show, made on antique chutes and ladders boards and other childhood game boards. All of them I found engaging, appealing, witty, seemingly mysterious and yet in the end, at least to me, obvious in the most generous way—very much like his poetry.
The collages are displayed in the small adjunct room, while in the main gallery there's a slew of new Trevor Winckfield paintings. I met up with poet Simon Pettet after I cruised this show and when talking with a friend of his who didn't know Winkfield's work, I said it's what Charles Sheeler might have made if he dropped acid.
I meant the use of hard outlines and clear edges and a colorful pallette taken to extremes, the hard edges mostly curved rather than Sheeler's straight lines and sharp angles, the colorful pallete so bright and kind of loud, it's almost impossible to imagine any other thing on the wall if you were lucky enough to have one to hang on yours, and the figurative and decorative details like objects depcited in collages, juxtaposed for the whimsy or the personal symbolism impossible to decipher or the dynamic of the clashing shapes and depicetd objects or something beyond my immediate comprehension.
The reproduction here doesn't do justice at all to the color. In person the paintings truly make it difficult to almost think, they are so bright and demand your eye's immediate allegiance. But if you take the time, at least this was my experience, with each painting, they begin to settle down and their imagery and blasts of color begin to evoke all kinds of responses. My favorite(s) was a tryptich that had me entranced for a while standing a few feet in front of it and reading its shapes and colors randomly and then systematically from one side to the other and back again, or top to bottom or corner to corner diagonally.
It was a great afternoon's experience, both these artists inspiring the desire to create, and to appreciate the act of creation as well as the resulting art.