Mark Strand: Collages
May 24 – June 30, 2017
Mark Strand (1934–2014) was widely recognized as one of the great American poets of his generation. Between 2011 and 2014, he produced a remarkable series of collages using handmade and hand-colored papers that he created in collaboration with master papermaker Sue Gosin. Strand added pigments to a paper blend comprised of linen rag pulp and Abaca pulp to create colored liquid pulps. Working while the base paper was still wet, he "painted" with the colored liquid pulps using brushes, small squirt bottles, and his own hands. This method lends the works their sense of gestural dynamism as well as their chromatic vibrancy. Once the papers were dry, Strand cut and tore them, assembling the pieces into finished collages. Modest in scale and often deceptively simple, the works reward careful and extended looking. Semitransparent layers gradually reveal subtle depth of field, while seemingly casual details coalesce into surprisingly precise compositions.
Lacking an external source or cultural referent, Strand’s collages participate in an aesthetic discourse more closely associated with abstract painting than with collage as it is usually understood. Indeed, Strand described his initial forays into collage as "an escape from making meaning," a shift from a "verbal sense" to a "visual sense," a form of thinking that he regarded as independent of language. But his collages are not entirely unmoored from history or divorced from his poetry. His sensitivity to the possibilities of color can be attributed to the early influence of Josef Albers, with whom he studied at Yale. And his embrace of chance and accident links the collages to the Surrealist tradition that also inspired many of the Abstract Expressionist painters whose works are clear historical antecedents. As Francine Prose noted in a 2013 essay on the collages, while the artist chose not to discuss the relationship himself, "the writing and the visual art are clearly the work of the same person, marked by qualities as unique and recognizable as a fingerprint."
Curated by Jacob Proctor