Astro-poems and Vertical Group Exercises: Concrete poetry at CSA

Installation view including artwork by Tom Edmonds, Diploma show CSA 1967 (Digitised slide, courtesy Chelsea College of Arts Library, University of the Arts London)

13 Jun - 13 Jul 2018

Private view: Tuesday 12 June, 6-8.30pm
Exhibition continues: 13 June - 13 July 2018

Astro-poems and vertical group exercises: Concrete poetry at CSA [Chelsea School of Art], curated by Gustavo Grandal Montero, will survey the adoption of Concrete poetry by British artists and designers in the central years of the 1960s. The exhibition will chart its evolution, with a range of experimental approaches producing on and off the page work that explores the possibilities of language materialised into 3D objects, and the relationship between these physical constructions and their surrounding spaces. 
 
The years 1964 to 1967 saw both a rapid expansion in the number of Concrete poetry practitioners in the UK, and the introduction of larger and more complex printed work, using colour, paper structures and offset printing. This was quickly followed by the creation of 3D pieces, using new materials and techniques, and later larger installations, some of them for public spaces: textile banners, wall-mounted pieces, glass, plastic, metal, wood and concrete structures, etc. Art schools providing new technical infrastructure and expertise, as well as a space for experimentation and the dissemination of ideas, were essential in this development, establishing connections between artists, graphic designers, geographical areas and groups, etc., as places where students and staff were experimenting multiple influences, local and international, including that of Concrete poetry, and later Conceptual art, minimalism, land art, etc.
 
The exhibition will feature work by artists based at Chelsea School of Art, as an important centre for these developments. Its focus will be on two parallel stories: the work and collaborations of influential graphic designer Edward Wright (1912-1988), Head of Graphics at the time, including students as well as Dom Sylvester Houédard, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Openings Press, John Furnival, Stephen Bann, the Concrete poetry exhibition part of the inaugural Brighton Festival (1967), etc. The other narrative pivot will be around the important but now almost forgotten work of Tom Edmonds (1944-1971). In addition to newly found documentation (photographs and slides) from the mid and late 60s, including of his diploma show in 1967, the exhibition will present his “astro-poems”, glass boxes that create 3D typographical structures, for the first time since the 1970s.

Image: Installation view including artwork by Tom Edmonds, Diploma show CSA 1967 (Digitised slide, courtesy Chelsea College of Arts Library, University of the Arts London)