Born to Concrete: The Heide Collection
An avant-garde movement with a wide international reach, Concrete Poetry evolved in the 1950s in separate but concurrent initiatives by Swiss writer Eugen Gomringer and Brazillian writers, The Noigandres Group. It transformed the definition of what poetry could be by expanding the written and phonic possibilities of language beyond standard printed or spoken forms. Concrete poets aspired to create poetry that would ‘exist in the world’.
The title of this exhibition, Born to Concrete, takes its name from the first Australian journal dedicated solely to concrete poetry. Published in the early 1970s, the journal is representative of the vibrant local publishing initiatives of experimental artists and poets during this period.
The exhibition focuses on the work of Sweeney Reed, Alan Riddell and Alex Selenitsch, all of whom were central figures in the development of Concrete Poetry in Australia. This new form of visual poetry was soon taken up by others, including Ruth Cowen, Aleks Danko, Jas H. Duke, Peter Murphy, TT.O, Mike Parr and Richard Tipping.
The exhibition also presents a selection of works by Scottish artist Ian Hamilton Finlay, an early exponent of Concrete Poetry, whose influence resonates in many of the works on display. Sweeney Reed was introduced to Finlay while he was based in London in the 1960s and the two maintained a connection throughout Reed’s lifetime, a relationship that is explored for the first time in this exhibition.
Heide Museum of Modern Art has amassed one of the most extensive collections of Concrete Poetry in Australia through the generosity of individual gifts and two significant donations: the Sweeney Reed Estate and Barrett Reid Bequest.
© All rights reserved The Estate of Alan Riddell 2011 Australia
screenprint 15/20. 73.7 x 99 cm. Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne. Gift of Ann Lewis 1989
© All rights reserved Pamela McIntosh 2011 Australia
screenprint 43/45. 48 x 51 cm. Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne. Gift of Pamela, Mishka and Danila McIntosh 1990.