Words from image 

Poets on Painters
Herron School of Art and Design
Through Oct. 7

The creative act exists in a chain of responses: the artist in response to the world outside and in, with infinite variations. The visiting exhibition Poets on Painters, on view in Herron School of Art’s Eleanor Prest Reese and Robert B. Berkshire Galleries, offers one such variation: the poet’s response to painting.

One more often associates reading poetry with overstuffed chairs and piles of books. Here, the viewer is invited into an almost sterile setting. Despite the lack of coziness, the poems, printed and writ large on oversized paper to match the size of the paintings, are an invitation to a dance: a different kind of contemplation than the conventional viewing of art.

Originating at Wichita State University’s Edwin A. Ulrich Museum of Art, the exhibition offers a selection of paintings by contemporary artists and poems-as-response, by as many poets: 19 in all. The poems are as diverse in expression as the paintings — confessional or personal, narrative, enigmatic, surreal. Certainly, as written artforms go, poetry is the most visual.

While the poetic response to painting (or art in general) is not new — artists have been responding to one another since antiquity — what is unique here is the content and the context. Today’s painters seem to have stepped back into themselves, creating personal narratives, often puzzling and dreamlike, along a continuum of abstraction, figuration and realism.

Anna Schachter’s “Tunnel of Love” (oil on canvas) depicts boats of all types, from fishing boat to sailing schooner, making their way beneath a series of squared arcs, each dotted with primary-colored circles of light. There’s a feeling of endless striving or possibility here, a sense of moving towards something rather than away; and the poet picks up on this in an equally dreamlike sequence: “We are scarcely tired / paper dots and take happily / out a limitless tooth.”

Angelina Gualdoni’s “Reflecting Skin 2,” a bleak image of a glass-fronted building oozing eggplant-hued lava in an empty office park, is an arresting image in and of itself, but the accompanying poem, “Intimacy vs. Autonomy,” by Kary Wayson, is also provocative: “Light began time. / We filled our day buckets with it.” And the final two lines, “Imagine my mother imagine her father: / I am in charge of the sky.” Here is the true collaborative art: Each piece, the painting and the poem, stands alone, yet they are complementary.

Poets on Painters is on view through Oct. 7 at Herron Galleries, Herron School of Art and Design, and is free and open to the public. Visit www.herron.iupui.edu for more information.

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