featuresPoetry For Art
Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

Dda: A collaboration between Michael Heller and alpert+kahn

POETRY FOR ART presents newly published poetry, or poetry posted to the web for the first time, that relates to visual art. It can be poetry that responds, like criticism, to work on view at the time of posting. Or, as is the case here, it can represent collaboration between artists and a poet.

A photogram from the series Dda by alpert+kahn.  Courtesy of the Artists
A photogram from the series Dda by alpert+kahn. Courtesy of the Artists

Click the image above to view Dda

Publication of Dda marks the occasion of Michael Heller’s acceptance of the role of Poetry Editor at artcritical. Mike — who succeeds Bill Berkson in this position — is no stranger to these pages: In 2011 we posted Within the Open Landscapes: Words for the Etchings of Jane Joseph, a segment of his 2010 collection, Beckmann Variations & Other Poems with images by Joseph.

Dda is a poetic sequence including eight graphic works by the artist couple alpert+kahn (Renée Alpert and Douglas Kahn) taken from their Dda series, the visual product of alpert+kahn’s intense study of Pablo Picasso’s seminal painting, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, 1907. The text (something of a dialogue/montage juxtaposing passages on the Picasso with those on the Dda series and other sources) and the integrated images take up themes of creativity, tradition and artistic transmission.

Renee Alpert and Douglas Kahn began their collaborative work as alpert+kahn in 1987 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Renee Alpert was encouraged and supported by Jacob Lawrence and Michael Spafford to pursue a career in art after receiving her undergraduate degree in philosophy. In 1984, she was awarded an MFA from the Yale School of Art. She has been the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including two Ford Foundation grants. An architecture graduate of Pratt Institute, Douglas Kahn worked for Marcel Breuer and Richard Meier before establishing his own firm. After leaving New York in 1980 he showed as a fine arts photographer as well as working as an architectural photographer, and he has appeared in such publications as Architectural Record, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, Arbitare and Domus. alpert+kahn’s collaborative work has been shown and is in the collection at The Museum of Fine Arts in Santa Fe, The Cinema Institute of Moscow, Fine Arts Center @ Cheekwood, Roswell Arts Center and other museums and galleries. In 1991 they were chosen by Van Deren Coke to be one of 20 New Mexican photographers to be shown at Vision Gallery in San Francisco. More recently in 2012 Charting the Sage and Uncharted, two gallery-size installations, were exhibited at the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center in Pueblo, Colorado. More information and examples of their work can be found at alpertandkahn.com.

Born in Brooklyn and raised in Miami Beach, Michael Heller was educated as an engineer at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. His poems first appeared in the 1960s while he was living in a small village on Spain’s Andalusian coast. Since then, he has published over 20 volumes of poetry, essays, memoir and fiction. Among his most recent works are This Constellation Is A Name: Collected Poems 1965-2010, Eschaton (2009), the mixed genre work, Beckmann Variations & other poems (2010) and Speaking the Estranged: Essays on the Work of George Oppen (2008, expanded edition, 2012). His collaborations with the composer Ellen Fishman Johnson include the multimedia works Constellations of Waking (2000), based on the life of the German-Jewish writer Walter Benjamin, This Art Burning (2008) and Out of Pure Sound (2010), all of which premiered at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. Among his many awards are grants and prizes from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Poetry Society of America and The Fund for Poetry. He is married to the poet and scholar Jane Augustine.