The New York School
Poem by Christina Strong
This poem by Ms. Strong can only be characterized as an invective in the best Catullan tradition. But even the most intense of invectives always contain a kernel of affection towards the object of ridicule, and so the poem is also in some sense an homage to the New York School. Ms. Strong’s language is simultaneously brutal and playful, breaking off and twisting sentences in surprising directions. I have not attempted to replicate any actual New York School artist’s work, although there is layered printing of found art in the manner of a Rauschenberg silkscreen, as well as repetition and seriality in the manner of Jasper Johns. There are also many instances of abstract hand-inked color fields that may echo something of Jackson Pollack or Helen Frankenthaler.
Where there is poetry there is typography. These harmonious, and occasionally dissonant activities, share a substantial history with one another. From the Dadaists to the Futurists, to De Stijl, the early 20th century was a period ripe with collaboration between poets, printers and artists that transcended the posh literalism of the livre d’artiste. Picking up after the war, the NewYork School’s literary and visual artists again succeeded in pushing one another to see beyond their individual notions of art, self and originality, by complicating each other’s work as never before.That creative energy continues today in poet Christina Strong’s The New York School.
Released in 1957, the same year as Frank O’Hara’s Meditations in an Emergency, Adrian Frutiger’s neo-grotesque sans-serif was the perfect choice for Strong’s poem. The clean, unadorned strokes prevent the complex irony of the poem from rising to the surface too quickly; submerged in the multiplicity of ‘the now,’ this is one of the special books amongst special books. Verve, vision and spontaneity were, and are, the raw ingredients essential to any successful collaboration, and they’re all here in this flamboyant book designed, illustrated and produced by Karen Randall.
Kyle Schlesinger NYC · 01.30.09