Sunday, July 26, 2009

emmett williams: story lines, 2002

Emily Harvey Gallery
537 Broadway at Spring
New York NY 10012
tel: 212 925 7651 fax: 212 966 0439


April 10 - May 4, 2002
tuesday - saturday 11 - 6pm
opening reception: wednesday april 10 . 6 - 8pm

Emmett Williams returns to New York City and the Emily Harvey
Gallery with Story Lines, an exhibition of recent verbal/visual
collages that reflect a personal tradition which first took shape in
the early 1960s with a group of ‘Hieroglyphics for Do –It-Yourself

The artist and poet describes these pieces as finding their source
in a vast collection of old fashioned decals – “transfer pictures
depicting life and lore galore in France and her colonies, some of
them dating back to the first world war and beyond” - to which he
offers new life and adventure as the cast of characters in a world of

cryptic narrative. It’s also a world in which they make the
acquaintance of the personal images of “little Fluxus people,” a
constant hallmark of Emmett Williams’ work. As always, these
“little Fluxus people” are quite surprising, since they seem so very
“low-brow” – so intimate – in a world of far more peregrine riddles,
and of far more philosophical procedures. Each of the collages is
completed by a phrase that helps it make sense, while also
making it clear that although meaning is something our minds
require, actual experience may not supply it, and at times may
even deride it.

Willaims was born in Greensboro, South Carolina, in 1925, and
was one of the original points of lights in the Fluxus constellation
espied by George Maciunas in the early 1960s. He was a
participant in 1962 at the first famous Fluxus Festival on New
Music in Wiesbaden, Germany.

Before that time, however, he was already well know as a
Concrete Poet. If that mix seems odd, it’s odder still that Williams’
activities have always belied that touch of something doctrinaire
which hovers in the air near these terms. As a performer, he’s
also known to reach astounding levels of lyricism,and a kind of
erotic calm.

Williams has lived most of his life in Europe. After his discharge
from the Army in 1946, he worked his way to Poland and Greece
on cattleboats. Graduating from Kenyon College in 1949, he went
to Paris, and remained in Europe for seventeen years. His
friendship and collaboration with Daniel Spoerri, Dieter Roth,
Robert Filliou and other European artists began in the 1950s.

Williams returned to the United States as editor-in-chief of Dick
Higgins’ Something Else Press in New York. In 1976 he toured
Japan with his friend and Fluxus colleague, Ay-O, and returned to
Tokyo a decade later as a artist in residence at the Machida-shi
Museum of Graphic Art, living at the Ryodenji Temple. He was
artist in residence and research fellow at the Carpenter Center for
the Visual Arts at Harvard University from 1977 until his return to
Europe in 1980.

Williams lives in Berlin, performs and exhibits widely throughout
Europe, and is president of the international Artistss’ Museum in
Lodz, Poland. In 1997 the prestigious Brerlinische Galerie
awarded him the first Hannah Hoch Prize for a “lifetime of
achievement in the arts”.

His ‘Anthology of Concrete Poetry’ (1967) is considered one of the
best guides to the innovations and experiments in visual and
concrete poetry. And John Updike wrote of the “pleasure and
wonderment” that Williams’ ‘Selected Shorter Poems’ (1974) gave

him. Williams’ autobiographical ‘My Life in Flux – And Vice Versa’
was published in 1992 by Thames & Hudson. ‘Mr Fluxus’, a
collective portrait of George Maciunas edited by Williams and his
wife, the English artist Ann Noel, was published in 1997, also by
Thames & Hudson

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