Over the past century, there has been an increase in the merging of the various arts. Visual artists use words in their works and writers arrange the words they create in a visually appealing way.
It only seems natural then that both writers and artists should collaborate and interpret each other’s work.
The current exhibit at the Langson Library, ‘A Throw of the Dice, Artists Inspired by a Visual Text,’ displays precisely this collaboration.
According to Jackie Dooley, head of special collections and archives at Langson, beginning in the late 19th century, the renowned French author and poet Stephane Mallarme was the first to use typographic freedom in how he presented the text on the page.
The exhibit is based on Mallarme’s poem ‘A Throw of the Dice.’
‘He originally envisioned [it] as being a poem that would be published together with an artist’s interpretation,’ Dooley said.
The exhibit’s accompanying program booklet could not have said it any better, describing the visually altered text as something that ‘attracts attention to itself and metamorphoses into a remarkably meaningful visual artifact.’
The exhibit presents different visual interpretations of Mallarme’s poem. Andre Masson’s interpretation, for example, consists of the handwritten poem surrounded by the use of many colors in a dynamic way.
Another poem by Mallarme also artistically represented in this exhibit is ‘L’Apres-midi d’un faune.’ The warm orange, yellow and red water colors evoke a
flickering flame that mysteriously suggests the presence of a ‘faune.’
In addition to artistic interpretations of Mallarme’s poems, the exhibit also features several editions of the poems.
One can also look at several parodies on artists’ books as well as the different English translations that exist. In fact, this exhibit demonstrates how Mallarme and artists’ books have influenced and inspired subsequent poets.
Henri Chopin, for example, accompanies his poems with crescents. Ruth Laxon also benefits from Mallarme’s influence,
by seemingly incorporating circles into her poetry.
Sometimes, a circle will surround the poem and sometimes the words of the poem form a circle themselves.
These authors have each taken something different and creatively positive from Mallarme. According to Dooley, they give an example of how Mallarme’s influence more than a century ago led up the kind of artists’ books that are being produced now.
The exhibit was curated by UCI professors Emeriti Renee Riese Hubert and Judd Hubert from the departments of English and Comparative Literature and French and Italian, respectively.
‘[Both professors] are experts in the field of artists books and French literature