A new exhibition at Richard Saltoun Gallery in London is to unravel the links between the written word and performance art via the work of three artists: avant-garde poet Henri Chopin, feminist Ida Applebroog, and performance art icon Gina Pane.
Chopin, who died in 2008, is perhaps the least familiar figure of the three. Interned in a concentration camp during WW2, he became disillusioned with the adequacy of language to reflect “the darker side of humanity,” explained gallery spokesperson Niamh Coghlan. The artist started to deconstruct narrative and words, using letters as formal elements in what he called his “dactylopoems,” several of which are presented in the exhibition.
Chopin is the real discovery of this exhibition. His production is redolent of Carl André’s acclaimed text pieces, but until recently, he has remained a relatively obscure figure, “because he’s so difficult to categorize” says Coghlan. The artist is now increasingly garnering attention. In 2012, his work was included in “Ecstatic Alphabet,” curated by Laura Hopman at MoMA in New York. This was followed last spring by a presentation of his manuscript for La Crevette Amoureuse (1967/75) at the Berlin artist-run space Supportico Lopez.
“When we were looking at Henri Chopin, we happened to come across a quote by Vito Acconci in which he compares language and the way that letters are on a page to performance,” continued Coghlan. “We just wanted to look at the way language is performance, and from there, we started looking at the work of Ida Applebroog and then Gina Pane.”
Yet performance per se is not featured in the show, which focuses on documentation of pieces such as Pane’s Azione Sentimentale (1974), a Catholic Church-inspired “action” during which the artist self-inflicted stigmata with a razor blade.
Applebroog is represented with Independence Plaza (1979), large velum works mimicking window frames and first installed at Printed Matters Inc in New York for “Co-Op City” - an exhibition curated by critic Lucy Lippard in 1980.