blackbirdonline journalFall 2013 Vol. 12 No. 2
MARK STRAND | Collages


Francine Prose: The Collages of Mark Strand
Strand & Dr. Melissa Birdwell: An Interview
Fifteen Collages
Table of Figures


From September 5 through October 4 of 2013 Mark Strand exhibited recent collages at Lori Bookstein Fine Art in New York. This exhibition consisted of fifteen pieces made in Madrid and New York between 2011 and 2013, and marked Strand’s first solo show with the gallery.

While the collages definitely employ the vocabularies of image and color rather than those of words and poetry, Strand’s preoccupations with apparently effortless form and economy of space married to surprising playfulness and deceptive resonance track through his work in both genres. As he notes in the short prose piece, “Nocturne of the Poet Who Loved the Moon,” “Let plainness enter the eye, plainness like the table on which nothing is set, like a table that is not yet even a table.”

Strand constructs his collages from handmade and hand-colored papers that he creates at Dieu Donné with the help of master papermaker Sue Gosin. At the papermaking studio he uses a unique blend of paper pulp consisting of linen rag pulp and abaca pulp, which is derived from a plant fiber commonly found in the Philippines. The resulting pulp is then mixed with various pigments to produce a set of colored paper pulps he then manipulates to make his papers. Working while the paper is still wet, Strand paints with the colored pulp using his hands, paintbrushes and squirt bottles. Once dried, the artist tears and cuts the paper to create collages, which he then arranges and mounts to mat board.


The gallery notes that

although the collages maintain an intimate scale, they certainly demand the viewer’s attention. Colors and forms radiate in dynamic patterns that, at once, seem both spontaneous and purposeful. The resulting collages look remarkably painterly despite the lack of the medium. Indeed, varying degrees of paper transparency and an array of deckled edges combine to form unique compositions with remarkable depth and character.

Blackbird’s presentation of the exhibition includes images of the collages, a brief essay by Francine Prose, and an interview between Strand and Dr. Melissa Birdwell, (quasi) art historian.

A full-color catalogue of the exhibition, including the essay by Francine Prose, is available from the gallery, and a book of Strand's collages is to be published by Vif Éditions, Paris, later this year. A slightly different form of Prose’s essay also appeared in The New York Review of Books, Volume 60, Number 15 on October 10, 2013. A version of the show was mounted at the James Cohen Gallery in Shanghai, China, from November 24, 2011–January 24, 2012, and the Strand/Birdwell interview appeared as a pamphlet accompanying that exhibition.  end of text

Blackbird gratefully acknowledges the generous help of Lori Bookstein Fine Art in publishing this piece, the kindness of Francine Prose in making her essay available, and Mark Strand’s support in gathering these materials.

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