The Artist and the Poet
Planned to coincide with the Art Institute’s major exhibition Picasso and Chicago, this presentation from the Department of Prints and Drawings is inspired by the modern master's love of poetry—Picasso was close friends with poets, including Max Jacob, Guillaume Apollinaire, André Breton, and Paul Éluard, and collaborated with them from his earliest days in Paris. Taking Picasso's passion as a jumping-off point, this collection of works on paper surveys the myriad ways visual artists have been inspired by or collaborated with poets in the 20th century.
The exhibition begins with a selection of sheets from Robert Motherwell’s A la Pintura (1968–72) and David Hockney’s The Blue Guitar (1976–77), prints series inspired respectively by the poetry of Rafael Alberti and Wallace Stevens—who was himself inspired by Picasso. The presentation continues with an exploration of the various working relationships between the artist and poet. Sometimes they are one and the same, such as Chicago’s own, Tony Fitzpatrick. Sometimes they work in tandem or tangentially to illustrate a text, as in the portfolios by Ken Price and Alex Katz. And sometimes artists independently co-opt the words of another; Lesley Dill, for instance, uses the words of Emily Dickinson in compositions such as A Word Made Flesh (1994).
Also on display are the publications of Tatyana Grosman and her workshop Universal Limited Art Editions (ULAE), where poets have long played an important role—as employees, muses, and collaborators. An early portfolio Stones (1957–59) exemplifies a collaborative relationship between the poet Frank O’Hara and artist Larry Rivers, while Skin with O’Hara Poem (1963–65), a print by Jasper Johns demonstrates O’Hara’s deeper impact on the artists who worked at ULAE. The word play of Edwin Schlossberg reveals how printing and materials impacts how one interprets text, and finally the series Fifth Stone, Sixth Stone (1967–68) by Lee Bontecou shows how the visual arts can likewise inspire the poet, in this case Tony Towle.
Other galleries are devoted to the poetic inspiration of Stéphane Mallarmé, represented by the prints of Henri Matisse and Ellsworth Kelly, as well as the impact of Guillaume Apollinaire on Louis Marcoussis. Russian poetic sources ranging across the century are also included, interpreted in the visual works of Nathalija Gontcharova, Kazimir Malevich, and Robert Rauschenberg.