Wednesday, 24 June 2009


On 17th June I went to the exhibition POOR. OLD. TIRED. HORSE. at the ICA in London. Named after the 1960s magazine run by Ian Hamilton Finlay, POOR. OLD. TIRED. HORSE. is 'an exhibition of art that verges on poetry', including 1960s Concrete Poetry and Text Art by Ian Hamilton Finlay, Dom Sylvester Houedard, Henri Chopin, Ferdinand Kriwet, Liliane Lijn, Vito Acconci, Carl Andre, Christopher Knowles, and artists from that period who used text in some way such as Robert Smithson, Philippe Guston, Alasdair Gray, David Hockney, and some more recent artists who make text based art: Anna Barham, Janice Kerbel, Sue Tompkins, Karl Holmqvist, Matthew Brannon and Frances Stark.
     I was really delighted to see the 1960s concrete work, especially an installation of Ian Hamilton Finlay's Sea Poppy I as a large wall painting. It was also wonderful to see dsh typewriter art as framed originals rather than as reproductions in books. I have the Finlay in my copy of Keith Tuma's Anthology of Twentieth-Century British and Irish Poetry (New York: OUP, 2001), but it really is much more impressive as a large wall painting. Liliane Lijn's rotating text cones set on record-player turntables (photo above, from the V & A collection) are great, Ferdinand Kriwet's stamped circular aluminium signs playing on power and sex language, Carl Andre's excerpts from Shooting a Script, Christopher Knowles' 'typings' from the 1970s, patterns made with the typewriter matrix, that look like carpet designs incorporating text. All this work is really worth seeing and the material that extends the show is compelling at first, especially the Philippe Guston / Clark Coolidge collaboration 'I am the First' (1972). After that, there is a quite a bit of material that is interesting but doesn't really manage to take the Text Art concept anywhere. I don't think that contemporary Text Art is represented well in this show.

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