Artist as Poet: Solitary Bird

On July 21, 2016, Deputy Director for Curatorial and Academic Affairs Klaus Ottmann shares an overview of Karel Appel: A Gesture of Color. In anticipation, we’re sharing examples of Appel’s poetry paired with his artwork on the blog. 

Appel_Big Head

Karel Appel, Big Head, 1964. Oil on canvas, 74 5/8 x 90 1/2 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, Gift of the Karel Appel Foundation, 2016

I saw a mouth screaming
and a knife dancing
with a happy crime
that’s enough
that’s OK
it isn’t enough
it isn’t OK

Karel Appel, “TV in the Open Window”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Appel_The Owlman no. 1

Karel Appel, The Owlman no. 1, 1960. Acrylic on olive-tree stump, 61 3/4 x 35 5/8 x 20 1/2 in. Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris

If I were a bird
so they would say
He flies alone
they would say
He flies through the night
I fly higher and higher
no longer a bird

Karel Appel, “Solitary Bird”
(trans. Klaus Ottmann)

Artist as Poet: Forgotten Angels

On July 21, 2016, Deputy Director for Curatorial and Academic Affairs Klaus Ottmann shares an overview of Karel Appel: A Gesture of Color. In anticipation, we’re sharing examples of Appel’s poetry paired with his artwork on the blog. 

Appel_Nude Figure

Karel Appel, Nude Figure, 1989. Oil on canvas, 76 x 95 5/8 in. Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris © Karel Appel Foundation, c/o ARS New York, 2016

We feel nothing
only the light growing
we feel that life
has forgotten her wings

The world has gone
from sleepy space
to a technological penitentiary
with the sound-tape of human rights
babbling on through the night

one smile, one angel smile
might burn the shadows on the roof
and let us see the stars
like flowers.

Karel Appel, “The Forgotten Angels”

 

 

 

 

 

Appel_Tree

Karel Appel, Tree, 1949. Gouache on wood, 38 5/8 x 29 1/2 x 24 3/8 in. Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris © Karel Appel Foundation, c/o ARS New York, 2016

A tree is poetic
because physicality
is in itself poetic,
because it is a presence,
because it is full of mystery,
because it is full of ambiguity,
because even a tree is a sign
of a chromatic system,
Who speaks by way of the tree?
Reality itself.

Karel Appel (trans. Sam Garrett)

Celebrating National Poetry Month at The Phillips Collection: Part III

George Inness, Lake Albano, 1869. Oil on canvas. 30 3/8 x 45 3/8 in. The Phillips Collection

Last December, we had the honor of listening to one of America’s greatest living poets, Dana Gioia, weave his baritone voice and wonderful words here at the museum. His poem Places to Return from the collection of poems The Gods of Winter (1991) makes me think of many artists and paintings in The Phillips Collection. I find that the beauty rendered in his poem evokes the perceptive quality of a painter’s visual interpretation of landscape and memory.

Places to Return

There are landscapes one can own,
bright rooms which look out to the sea,
tall houses where beyond the window
day after day the same dark river
turns slowly through the hills, and there
are homesteads perched on mountaintops
whose cool white caps outlast the spring.

And there are other places which,
although we did not stay for long,
stick in the mind and call us back –
a valley visited one spring
where walking through an apple orchard
we breathed its blossoms with the air.
Return seems like a sacrament.

Then there are landscapes one has lost –
the brown hills circling a wide bay
I watched each afternoon one summer
talking to friends who are now dead.
I like to think I could go back again
and stand out on the balcony,
dizzy with a sense of déjà vu.

But coming up these steps to you
at just the moment when the moon,
magnificently full and bright
behind the lattice-work of clouds,
seems almost set upon the rooftops
it illuminates, how shall I
ever summon it again?

[i]


[i]  Used by permission from The Gods of Winter, Dana Gioia, Graywolf Press, St. Paul, 1991

Martín Paddack, Museum Shop Book Buyer

Read the first and second installments in Martín’s series for National Poetry Month.