John Ashbery, Acrobats, 1972, collage, 3 ½ x 5 ½ inches. ©Estate of John Ashbery, courtesy Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York.

John Ashbery, Acrobats (1972), collage, 3 ½ x 5 ½ inches. ©Estate of John Ashbery, courtesy Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York.

Pratt Manhattan Gallery’s new exhibition John Ashbery: The Construction of Fiction is the most comprehensive exhibition of the poet’s visual art to date. It spans seven decades of work, presenting over 120 collages and archival materials.

The prolific collage work that John Ashbery produced over the last decade of his life is remarkable for allowing new insights into the creative process of one of America’s most reticent poets. But what many saw as a poet’s late foray into the visual arts was, in reality, a return to an early vocation that somehow morphed into complex hybrids. Composition, whether with images or words, was Ashbery’s métier and collage had been his technique of choice since the beginning of his career as a poet. The mixing of visual arts and literature was also a distinctive trait in the works of authors that have been of central interest to Ashbery, namely French writer Raymond Roussel, and American outsider artist Henry Darger. Like Roussel and Darger, Ashbery conveyed narrative through the juxtaposition of seemingly random imagery that left to the reader the task of filling the gaps and making connections.

Curated by Antonio Sergio Bessa, the exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog and public programs.

The exhibition will be on view through November 14, 2018. The Pratt Manhattan Gallery is open Monday–Saturday, 11 am–6 pm, and Thursday until 8 pm.

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