The Brooklyn Rail

FEB 2011

All Issues
FEB 2011 Issue

Painters and Poets

Larry Rivers and Kenneth Koch, “In Bed,” 1982, mixed media, 48 x 84 inches. Courtesy Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York.
Larry Rivers and Kenneth Koch, “In Bed,” 1982, mixed media, 48 x 84 inches. Courtesy Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York.

On View
Tibor De Nagy Gallery
January 16 – March 5, 2011
New York

The Visible and the Invisible
(from a time zone, a long time ago)

O’Hara, O’Hara, I think of you
on a Saturday, New York City, at dusk,
where you once worked and wrote.

We are “objets trouvé” among “objets trouvé,”
“Beheld by one another in joy.”
Front room, back room, white wine...
Tibor de Nagy and John Bernard Myers;
things unseen before, visible and invisible,
“profoundly useless things” from the cinema of life.

Ron Padgett smiles, shakes hands,
his collages with George Schneeman on the wall.

O’Hara’s sister is here;
Rudy Burckhardt’s wife, Yvonne Jacquette;
Kenneth Koch’s wife and daughter,
re-creating a lost paradise of language and imagination,
paintings, books, and films.
The transparent maltreatment of art and poetry...
I look at the painters and poets of the 1950s.
It’s not a funeral, but one cannot cheat death.
Few are still with us: Jane Freilicher, John Ashbery,
Helen Frankenthaler, Bill Berkson, Alfred Leslie.
The rest, a widening circle of artistic and literary ghosts.

Wake up dreamer, it’s time for collaborations,
anti-gravity exaltation, transliberation,
visoralistic manifesto, poetry for paintings.
After six decades, “art and poetry” are still here.
What made them sing together? Permutations?
Sex, inebriation, Hamptons, parties, drugs, art.

Many returned from France, some were on the way there.
Semicolon: a magazine, published by the gallery.
Hallucination, game playing, irrational, interwoven.
Locus Solus, another ’zine from ex-pats in Paris:
collages by Joe Brainard, George Schneeman,
playing with O’Hara, with Berrigan, with Berkson.
Dracullage: the devilish game of Exquisite Corpses.

Larry Rivers.
Larry Rivers. "Frank O'Hara," c. 1955, plaster, 15 1/2 x 9 1/2 x 7 1/4 inches. Courtesy Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York.

The Cedar Tavern provided the booze and the fun.
For Ab-Ex, the New York School of Poets, Beats.

The great derangement of the human mind.
Artist’s club at 39 East 8th Street, the eye of the storm.
They were complaining: of course, it was the ’50s.

“There was a glorious halo around the idea
of each inspiring the other,” said Larry Rivers.

It was also Paris, and the books were full of it.
A gorgeous volume of Matisse with a yellow cover,
the words he didn’t understand,
surrounded by beautifully drawn leaves,
they seemed to change and light up his dreary days...
He saw a book where Picasso did something
with Eluard, and other books, and art,
and other greats who had gotten together.

O’Hara restrained his reason at quick lunches,

to disrupt poetry and painting with collage,
insane poetic imitation, surreal injury,
dislocating the sense of continuity...
On the wall, a 1958 photo taken in Larry’s studio,
Rivers on the bed, O’Hara on a couch, collaborating,
hands-on sitting across from each: “Stones,”
as if writing backward, for the lithographs...
The prophet, the catalyst, “the last avant-gardist.”
The Angel of Anarchy, later the Fallen Angel,
conducting the New York School of Poets/Painters...

The women’s chorus: Barbara Guest the poet,
Grace Hartigan signed her paintings George
and painted oranges for the cover of a book by O’Hara,
Joan Mitchell, the diva,
pastels for James Schuyler,
“Daylight and Sunday,” written at the Chelsea Hotel,
Nell Blaine, abstract and figurative collaborator...

This poem ends soon and I did not mention many.
“A cat’s cradle of cross-ties woven among lovers,”
spouses (current and ex), friends and collaborators,

“They call us the Farters of Our Country.
Poetry was declining, printing advancing”…
“A very soft rain, we were sitting on the stairs,”
The perfect friends in a lonely crowd.


The Brooklyn Rail

FEB 2011

All Issues