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Measuring Poetry

13.10-21.11 / 2014
Faggionato, London

Faggionato is delighted to announce the first UK solo exhibition by Mexican artist, Jorge Méndez Blake. Measuring Poetry runs 13 October – 21 November and comprises a new body of work, including a series of intricate drawings, a large-scale tapestry and site-specific installation sculptures.
Following solo shows at institutions throughout America and Europe, Méndez Blake has become recognized on an international scale for his innovative use of literary references. Specifically, literature and architecture create hybrids that find themselves between disciplines in his work. Using text as the architecture from which to build the exhibition, and creating a location-specific installation in response to the gallery’s own architectural nuances, Méndez Blake returns once again  to this central preoccupation.
Measuring Poetry sees Méndez Blake focus on ‘measuring’ the work of a series of English language poets such as James Joyce, Wallace Stevens, Dylan Thomas, Shakespeare, Beckett and Ray Bradbury. The measurements – corresponding to the type, the area of ink used and the stanza silhouette – are the ‘raw matter’, and are translated into sculpture, drawing and tapestry.
The central installation piece of the show is made up of 19 floor-to-ceiling columns, which denote the stanza silhouette of the celebrated poem by Dylan Thomas, Do not go gentle into that good night. Set in the centre of the gallery space, the columns follow the setting points and the end of each line of the poem.
Driving interpretations in a different direction, the exhibition includes a series of drawings, using works by Beckett, Shakespeare and T.S. Eliot as their sources, their Complete Poetry, Complete Sonnets and The Waste Land respectively.  Determining the precise area of ink on a page, in an obsessive, mechanical technique, this numerical value is transformed by the artist into another form of visual language, playing with meaning in this visual-verbal interplay. Reducing the raw form of poetry to its most simple values, and reorganizing it in the manner of a palindrome. This  contains the same “poetic matter” on either side, but with meanings unrecognizable from its original sense. A practice made manifest in the pangram tapestry, an ambitious undertaking conceived from the Complete Works of Poetry of Ray Bradbury, a writer better known for his fiction novels. This seemingly unusual selection may be guided, however, by one of the major thematic threads in his novel Fahrenheit 451 – in which within a utopian society books are banned, and people respond by memorizing them. This way of translating into the oral form imposes a state of constant flux upon language, which Méndez Blake now pushes further, by transforming matter into ‘nothing’ – ‘writing without writing.’ The pangram, produced in Guadalajara in a famous factory specializing in tapestries, measures 367 x 223cm, is a  response to the relation between the area of ink and the area of paper used in the book.
Finally, Jorge Méndez Blake incorporates a third method of measuring into this body of work. All letters—irrespective of their fonts—are made with lines, he measures letter by letter, the length of poems by James Joyce and Elizabeth Bishop, and transforms these lengths into a series of aluminum tube sculptures.
Renowned for the use of language and literature in his work, for this exhibition Méndez Blake has chosen poetry as the starting point – not as a direct reference of content or even lyricism, but as a visual construct. In a cold sense, the raw and yet intangible material of poetry is transcribed, and the artist’s concern with how we translate one language into another becomes increasingly marked: What is poetry?
Notable solo museum shows by Jorge Méndez Blake include: Project for a Park Library, the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, April 2014; All the Calvino Books (and Other Stories), Museo d’Arte Contemporea Villa Croce, Geneva, 2012; The Marquise Went Out at Five. Jorge Méndez Blake, Museo Tamayo, Mexico City, 2010; and All the Poetry Books, the Museum of Latin American Art, Los Angeles. Important group shows include: My Third Land, Frankendael Foundation, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 2013; SABER DESCONOCER, 43 Salón (Inter) Nacional de Artistas, Museo de Antioquia, Medellín, Colombia, 2013; Earth and Elsewhere, Queensland Art Gallery, Australia, 2013; and Resisting the Present, Museum of Modern Art, Paris, France, 2012. Jorge Méndez Blake was also a featured artist in the 13th Istanbul Biennial.
The artist will be in London and available for interview from 10 until 20 October 2014.

This post is also available in: Spanish