Words and images meld into a singular, unique experience this spring at the Fleming Museum
when visual artist William Cordova and poet Major Jackson are brought together for the first time in the provocative new exhibition,More than Bilingual: William Cordova/Major Jackson.
Although the Peruvian-born, Miami-based artist Cordova and the North-Philadelphia-born, African-American poet Major Jackson come from divergent backgrounds, they find inspiration and common ground in music, literature, and the urban aesthetic. Individually and collaboratively, their works celebrate and critique how cultural territories are dispersed, redefined, and transformed in urban settings. The dialogue between their works shifts across media and form as the artists create their own language of physical artifacts and verbal and visual codes from Andean, Latino, and African-American cultures.
The practice of poet-painter collaborations flourished in New York City in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Although these efforts diminished in later decades -in part because the artistic movements of Minimalism, Conceptual Art, and Earth Art seemingly offered less scope for poetic collaboration-it is now enjoying a resurgence.
"We are delighted and proud to present this groundbreaking collaboration between a visual artist and a poet who have long admired one another's work," said Fleming Director Janie Cohen. "Many of our visitors will remember the Fleming's 2006 exhibition The Inferno of Dante featuring poet Robert Pinsky's translations and artist Michael Mazur's prints. More than Bilingual promises to deliver another exciting fusion of word and image, this one featuring a rich interweaving of visual, written, and oral language inspired by sources ranging from music, history and literature to contemporary street life."
The title of the exhibition, More than Bilingual, is drawn from one of Cordova's drawings, and, according to Fleming Museum Curator of Collections and Exhibitions, Aimee Marcereau DeGalan, sets the tone for the show, acknowledging that both language and its interpretation are complex and operate on many levels. Playing on this idea of multiple voices and compound meanings is the largest piece featured in the exhibition, Cordova's sculpture Oradores, Oradores, Oradores (2008), a monolith of over 100 discarded speakers stacked onto a 6-foot square reclaimed wood stage. Taking its name from the Spanish word for "orator," which in English can also mean a speaker, the sculpture includes the names of activists and radicals, some elderly, others deceased, all nearly silenced, like the wall of speakers itself. In Jackson's responding poem, Born Under Punches, the wall of speakers similarly recalls a once throbbing beat and memories of youthful posturing silenced through the passage of time. Thus, in both instances the speakers serve as a verbal and visual monument.