For National Poetry Month, Poesia e Fotografia Part III

As part of the 2013 Year of Italian Culture in the United States, the Phillips has partnered with the Embassy of Italy to present an exhibition that pairs contemporary Italian photographs with verses by celebrated Italian poets. On view at the Phillips through April 28, the show is complemented by posters featuring its photography/poem pairings on city buses. In honor of National Poetry Month, we bring you a selection from this series. Read Part I and Part II.

Next Stop Italy installation view by Joshua Navarro. Artworks left to right: Gabriele Basilico's "Ponte Matteotti, Roma" (2007), Gianni Berengo Gardin's "Toscana" (1965), and Renato D'Agostin's "Paris" (2005).

Next Stop Italy installation view by Joshua Navarro. Artworks left to right: Gabriele Basilico’s “Ponte Matteotti, Roma” (2007), Gianni Berengo Gardin’s “Toscana” (1965), and Nino Migliori’s “No War” (2003).

Flanking Gardin’s lovely gelatin-silver print Toscana to the left you will discover Basilico’s Ponte Matteotti, Roma with this verse written by Eugenio Montale in 1925:

“Meriggiare pallido e assorto” (1925)
. . . sentire con triste meraviglia
com’è tutta la vita e il suo travaglio
in questo seguitare una muraglia . . .

“To slump at noon” (1925)
. . . once more, to feel, with sad surprise
how all life and its battles
is in this walk alongside a wall . . .

Eugenio Montale (translated by Millicent Bell)

At right, hangs Migliori’s No War with this verse by Mario Luzi:

“Prima notte di primavera” (1965)
Porto la mano sulla fitta, ascolto.
Prima notte di primavera, gonfia
e lacera tra l’avvenire e l’essere.

“First night of spring” (1965)
My hand is on the stitch of pain, I’m listening.
First night of spring, swelling
and lacerating, between becoming and being.

Mario Luzi (translated by Nick Benson)

Pollock Meets Japanese Poetry in Collage

Jackson Pollock, Collage and Oil, c. 1951, oil, ink, gouache and paper collage on canvas

Jackson Pollock, Collage and Oil, c. 1951, oil, ink, gouache and paper collage on canvas; overall: 50 in x 35 in; 127 cm x 88.9 cm. Acquired 1958. The Phillips Collection, Washington D.C.

Jackson Pollock began making collages in 1943 at the invitation of Peggy Guggenheim, who organized an international Exhibition of Collage at her gallery Art of This Century. The Phillips’s Collage and Oil, executed in 1951, is probably one of Pollock’s last collages.

According to Head of Conservation Elizabeth Steele, Pollock placed torn pieces of Japanese paper and Western paper that he had first painted with ink or black paint and a pink ochre gouache on top of canvas in layers of red earth, pink, and black. After gluing the torn paper sections onto the painted canvas, Pollock splattered the entire composition with an Indian yellow paint and white gouache.

Collages, or pictures assembled from a variety of materials, have an ancient history. In the 12th century, Japanese calligraphers copied poems on sheets of paper that were composed of irregularly shaped pieces of delicately tinted papers. Tiny flowers, birds, and stars made from gold and silver paper were sprinkled over the composition. When the torn or cut edges of the papers were brushed with ink, their wavy contours represented mountains, rivers, or clouds. The calligrapher selected from such papers the one most appropriate to the spirit of a particular poem, which he then wrote out in an elegant hand.

Example of 12th-century Japanese calligraphy on collage paper.

Example of 12th-century Japanese calligraphy on collage paper.

Director’s Desk: Art that Startles

April is poetry month. I love Benjamin Britten’s Hymn to Saint Cecilia written to a marvelous text by W.H. Auden, one of my favorite poets. (I recently enjoyed a performance by the King’s College Choir.) The refrain to the patron saint of musicians reads thus:

Blessed Cecilia, appear in visions/ To all musicians, appear and inspire/ Translated Daughter, come down and startle/ Composing mortals with immortal fire.

It seems to me this text applies to all the arts. The word ‘startle’ is perfect. Art knocks us out of the everyday, jolts us into a realm of possibility. Isn’t that why we love a visit to a museum like the Phillips?

Dorothy Kosinski, Director