Blends & Bridges
Editorial PrefaceWhat follows is a mind-rattling collection of over three hundred visio-textual artworks--the complete collection (I hope) that was in the Blends & Bridges survey Gallery 324 in Cleveland during April, 2006. Wendy Collin Sorin, John Byrum and I curated it.
The background is amusing: it seems that Cleveland poet, glass artisan and gallery director Marcus Bales, out of nowhere, offered me an opportunity to curate a show of visual poetry at his gallery. What is interesting about this is that Marcus and I had for years been going at each other tooth and nail on the Internet about what poetry is. We particularly did not agree that what I call visual poetry is a form of poetry. A traditionalist, Marcus won't even agree that free verse is poetry. He has also been negative about my attempts to taxonomize the entire field of poetry.
"Grumman wants to create a kind of taxonomy of poetry," he told Dan Tranberg, who wrote a flattering piece about the show for The Plain Dealer, a Cleveland daily. "I'm against the very notion of a taxonomy of poetry on the grounds that poetry is an aesthetic field, not a scientific one."
I'm afraid to confess that we on occasion quite annoyed each other. I definitely personally insulted him on more than one occasion. He claims never to have insulted me, but I feel there were times when he wasn't very nice to me. Whatever the truth of the matter, we were often scolded for intemperance by the moderator of the Internet poetry group (New-Poetry) we had our (sometimes incredibly long) "discussions" at. In fact, Marcus finally got kicked out of the group. I didn't only because I promised to behave better.
So, why the offer of space for a show? I'm still not clear about that--except that he meant it as a kind of challenge: if I thought this stuff was disgustingly under-recognized, as I often sputtered in harangues against--you guessed it--The Establishment, here was my chance to prove it with a show. I don't know that I proved it, but the show seems to have gone over well. Marcus extended the show for one week into May because the Tranberg eview came out the weekend the show was closing. According to Marcus, "Sales were pretty good, considering the narrow swatch of the world that this appealed to. I think we sold something in the neighborhood of $1500 worth of stuff, retail, most of it in the $10 and $25 range, but at least one sale over $200."
Before continuing, let me make a few acknowledgements: because so many pieces were on exhibit, the show was held in an annex space to Marcus's Gallery 324, which is located on the ground floor of The Galleria in Cleveland. This space was generously offered for our use by the management of the Galleria generously offered for the cost of keeping the lights on. (It had formerly been a clothing store.) So I need to thank the Galleria people. Also, obviously, Marcus. And Wendy and John, my co-curators. Plus I didn't get hardly no crap from the artists involved, for which I'm grateful. (I was my usual highly disorganized self.) They sent me great stuff, too, so two tips of the hat need to go to them. An extra hat-tip to Marcus and Andrew Russ, Marcus for supplying most of the photographs in the Venue file that is part of this feature, and for lending Andrew his camera so Andrew could take pictures of all the works in the show.
Those photographs, by the way, are what are here. Because they were installation pictures, many are tilted, in shadow, and/or otherwise not what you'd called genuinely accurate reproductions. I hope they come close enough. However, one of the great advantages to an Internet publication like Big Bridge is that improved versions of graphic images deemed flawed can later be substituted for them. Ergo, please contact me or Big Bridge if you are the creator of some piece in the collection that you feel should be more accurately represented.
Now, then, what we have art the main collection of works, a catalogue that Marcus had printed that has artists' statements and other data worth looking at besides a list of the pieces in the show, a special section containing a group of my own favorites from the show with comments of mine that are intended to give an idea of my take on visual poetry, and a second "side-bar" section, this one with 34 pieces arranged along a continuum from extremely verbal work to extremely visual work--with a little of my taxonomical blather (to irk Marcus). Aside from the possibly tedious taxonomic remarks, this section ought to give one a good sense of the breadth of the kind of work in the show, and in visio-textual art, in general--besides focusing on works I consider especially representative, and effective.