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”







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)

Interpreting Per Kirkeby

Per Kirkeby_Untitled

Per Kirkeby, Untitled, 1991

My initial response to Per Kirkeby‘s Untitled, on view in Postwar Germanic Expressions, is that it reminds me of the type of painting (if you can call it that) that I used to love doing as a child—remember these? They started out as heavy sheets of paper coated in black paint, but underneath was a hidden rainbow of colors. With a coin or a pencil, you could scratch off the black coat, allowing the colors to show.

When looking more closely at this painting, what comes to mind is that this is some sort of interpretation of one’s feelings. A pathetic fallacy, but in art. The dominance of the dark colors and the black in parallel to the small quantities of colorful ones taps into my emotions. I interpret the emotions behind this work as either depression or some sort of rebirth after tremendous pain. On the one hand, the dark colors closing in with only faint glimmers of light impart a certain sadness. On the other hand, the yellow paint and colors shining through cracks in the black background might signify a new beginning.

In the yellow splashes of paint, I see the outline of a paper plane; perhaps a tool planted here by the artist to let go and fly away from these emotions.

Olivia Bensimon, Marketing & Communications Intern