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Text + Context
Curated by William Allen

Espacio El Dorado
Bogotá, Colombia
24 June – 19 August 2017

An exhibition surveying the relationship between text and art in the 1960s and 1970s, from Concrete Poetry and Auto-Destructive Art to Mail Art and the Colombian Avant-Garde in Holland. Featuring works by Ian Hamilton Finlay, Hansjorg Mayer, Dom Sylvester Houedard, Ken Cox, Gustav Metzger, Slavs and Tatars, Raul Marroquin, Wacław Ropiecki, Michel Cardena, Ulises Carrion and others.

The text-based works of these artistic movements are presented alongside periodicals, books and ephemera, which provide additional context for these groups’ artistic intentions and methodologies. This exhibition hopes to highlight how published material and ephemera contributes to our understanding of artistic practices.


Performing No Thingness

East Gallery, Norwich University of the Arts (NUA), Norwich
September - October 2016

Curated by Nicola Simpson, Performing No Thingness explores how the concept of nothingness informs the kinetic art work of Dom Sylvester Houédard, Ken Cox and Li Yuan Chia. These three artists all knew each other, sharing, for a coinciding moment in the late 1960s, an interest in the Eastern philosophies that present objects not as things but as relationships, events and actions. Simpson brings together a selection of works that demonstrate each artist’s interest in how the art object is dependent on performance to come into being.

This exhibition will be the first display of Ken Cox's Elemental Balloons as a complete group since the 1968 exhibition at Lisson Gallery.

Image (left): Photograph of Ken Cox. ©Ken Cox, Courtesy Lisson Gallery and NUA


Linguaviagem: A Poesia Concreta Dialogue

Actual Size, Los Angeles
January - February 2016

From the Press Release:

Actual Size Los Angeles is pleased to present Linguaviagem: A Poesia Concreta Dialogue, an exhibition of Brazilian Poesia Concreta and European Konkrete Poesie (Concrete Poetry). This exhibition emphasises the roles played by Brazilian poets in establishing an international movement that went on to influence the methodologies of European poets and artists, featuring printed matter, manuscripts, key documents, photographs, prints and publications by Augusto de Campos and the Noigandres group; Wlademir Dias-Pino and the Poema Processo  group;  Eugen Gomringer, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Ken Cox, Dom Sylvester Houédard and Jiří Valoch.

The precursor of Concrete Poetry was the ‘concrete’ (abstract) art of Theo Van Doesburg and Max Bill. Based on the perceived principles of 'concrete' art, the Brazilian poets began using words constructed to purvey one core essential meaning or idea. Poesia Concreta’s conception as an international movement began in 1955 when Décio Pignatari from Brazil met with Bolivian born Eugen Gomringer in Ulm, Germany. Upon returning to Brazil, Pignatari together with Haroldo and Augusto de Campos, Wlademir Dias Pino and Ferreira Gullar held the first exhibitions of Poesia Concreta in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro in 1956 and 1957.

Displayed as the centrepiece of the exhibition, Augusto de Campos’s paper sculpture Poemcube  – Linguaviagem  (1967) encourages the exploration of the possibilities of language. The Poemcube itself is a cube shape with three letters screen printed on each side forming LIN / GUA / VIA / GEM - Lingua translates to tongue, Linguagem to Language and Viagem to voyage. This voyage of words moving through space unfolds through works from Brazil’s Poema Processo or Process Poetry movement, alongside the early Typewriter Art of Czech poet Jiří Valoch and the sculptural realisations of Concrete Poetry seen in the work of European practitioners Ian Hamilton Finlay (Scottish) and Ken Cox (British).

Linguaviagem: A Poesia Concreta Dialogue is co-curated by William Allen and Ann Harezlak.

Programmed events to coincide with the exhibition:

William Allen on Poesia Concreta at Los Angeles Contemporary Archive (LACA) - 12 February 2016
Curators’ reception at Actual Size Los Angeles - 13 February 2016


Ken Cox: Poetry Machines

CHELSEA Space, London
29 April - 5 June 2015

In Spring 2015, William Allen, in collaboration with CHELSEA space and the Ken Cox Estate, curated the exhibition Ken Cox: Poetry Machines (April 29 - June 5 2015, CHELSEA Space, London). Seen in the unrivalled scale of The Three Graces, which was exhibited at the Concrete Poetry Exhibition of the 1967 Brighton Festival, Ken Cox was one of the few artists of the British concrete poetry movement to directly realise the movement of letters and words in three-dimensional sculptural forms (seen in the installation shots of the exhibition shown here). As E.M. de Melo e Castro writes of the artist's work in 'Ken Cox - A Cyberneticist', a 1969 text found in the Ken Cox Archive, and specially translated for the exhibition catalogue:

In command of life itself and of his or her own life (as I say) - are the ones who have consciously given up being just Poets in order to find a new creative category that can be denominated THE CYBERNETICISTS or artists who work with the materials that the world has always offered them but who, TODAY transform them into signs of a rediscovered and independent language.

A car accident brought Ken Cox’s life to an abrupt end in November 1968, four months after his solo show at the Lisson Gallery. Ken Cox: Poetry Machines was the first time the artist’s works had been shown in London since that year. The exhibition sought to re-assert Cox as a significant figure in the history of concrete poetry (and its most prominent sculptor). It tracked a lineage of his work from the verbal games associated with GLOUP (Glo’ster Gro’up of Concrete and Kinetic Poets) to the intermedia art he began to experiment with by 1968, seen in the Elemental Balloons that were exhibited at the Lisson.

Exhibited alongside Cox’s kinetic sculptures was rare documentation and ephemera from the previously unseen Ken Cox Archive, including photographs of the artist’s installation of The Three Graces in Brighton, proposals for that work, photographs of the concrete poetry exhibition Arlington Une, and works by Dom Sylvester Houédard in memorial to his friend and collaborator, Ken Cox.

Also included in the exhibition were a selection of documents relating to Ken Cox and other associated artists from the Lisson Archive, selected by CHELSEA Space and the college’s MA Curating students.

Images (left): Ken Cox: Poetry Machines at CHELSEA Space, 2015. Photos courtesy of CHELSEA Space.