Exquisite Poems and Parlor Games: An Evening of Poetry at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art,
March 7, 2014
by Gillian Nevers
Philip Evergood, Lily and the Sparrows, 1939. Oil on composition board, 30 x 24 inches. Collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art. Purchase 41.42. Photography by Sheldan C. Collins.
On the surface one art movement may appear to be distinct from another, but that is not always true. Real/Surreal, an exhibition at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA), explores the interconnections between the real and the imagined in early modern American art, with an emphasis on Surrealism and Magic Realism. Several Madison area members of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets (WFOP) were invited to explore the tensions and convergences between realism and Surrealism, and to write in response to the exhibition. They shared their work during Exquisite Poems and Parlor Games, the latest collaboration between MMoCA, the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets (MMoCA), and Verse Wisconsin.
George C. Ault, Hudson Street, 1932. Oil on linen, 24 3/16 x 20 inches. Collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Purchase 33.40. Photography by Jerry L. Thompson.
In addition to works by individual poets, and in keeping with the surrealists desire to transform, and subvert, reality, members of four Madison area writing groups and Madison’s Poets Laureate, Sarah Busse and Wendy Vardaman, were invited to create collaborative poems using the Exquisite Corpse, a creative device popular with the Surrealists. They were not restricted to Exquisite Corpse poems, however, and Busse and Vardaman, went so far as to create their own, original poetic device—a catalog of invisible art.
As to be expected when visual art and poetry converge, the audience and visitors to Real/Surreal were treated to an event full of fun and amazement, and filled with inventive, imaginative, and expressive language, all the while surrounded by some of the most evocative American art of the last century.
Kay Sage, No Passing, 1954. Oil on canvas, 51 1/4 x 38 inches. Collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Purchase 55.10. Photography by Sheldan C. Collins.
Real/Surreal was organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. Additions to the exhibition were drawn from the permanent collection of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. The exhibition is on view in the museum's main galleries from January 25 through April 27, 2014.
Gillian Nevers grew up in Milwaukee but has lived in Madison so long that she considers herself to be a native. She spends a fair amount of time in Italy visiting the boy who loved gelato so much he ended up moving there.