Poesia Visiva: Italian Concrete and Visual Poetry of the 1960s and 1970s

By Maria (Connie) Tornatore-Loong.

Published by The Arts Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

During the 1960s and 1970s, concrete and visual poetry became a neo-avant-garde international movement spanning the visual arts. Treating the poem as an object, artists combined language and visual imagery directly influenced by Dadaism, Futurism, Surrealism, FLUXUS and the readymade. Italian concrete and visual poetry, mainly derived from literary sources, sought to challenge the conventional art work by dematerialising and publishing the art object, through the employment of calligraphy, collage, typeface, braille, photography, and other visual and textual elements.Concrete and visual poetry encompasses a multitude of definitions. Nevertheless, concrete poetry is loosely defined as ‘image as word’, whereas visual poetry is a ‘fusion of word and image’, an amalgamation of linguistic and pictorial expression. The concrete artist for example, transforms the text, either represented as calligraphy or typeface, into a visual image that transcends the authentic gesture of writing itself. It is important to note that these terms are interchangeable as there is a continuous migration of poets from one group to another. Italian concrete and visual poetry of the 1960s and 1970s for example, is uniquely positioned between the discourses of art, language, poetry and critique. For visual poet Lamberto Pignotti, “Poesia Visiva returns to the tradition of interactions between words and images, but it does so in terms of a discourse on communications in our modern world.” This paper will examine the evolution of Italian concrete and visual poetry, particularly during the 1960s and 1970s. Undeniably, Italian concrete and visual artists during this period not only revolutionised the traditional notion of literature and aesthetics but transformed text and image into political, socio-economic and cultural statements. Artists including Adriano Spatola, Michele Perfetti, Eugenio Miccini, Sarenco, Luciano Ori, Pignotti, Giovanni Fontana and Gianni Bertini highlighted the dialectical encounter between verbal elements and the iconographic that characterised the overtly leftist and socio-cultural commitment in Italy. Likewise, feminist contemporaries centered their art on socio-economic and political struggles as experienced in the private and public spheres. Artists such as Lucia Marcucci, Tomaso Binga, Betty Danon, Mirella Bentivoglio and Giulia Niccolai rejected the hostilities of patriarchalism by examining their own sexuality, gender and oppression in society. Indeed, the feminist poets demanded equality with men, diversity and liberation for all women.

Keywords: Italian Concrete and Visual Poetry, Futurism, Dadaism, Surrealism, FLUXUS, Readymade, I Novissimi, Gruppo 63, Gruppo 70, Italian Feminism

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 5, Issue 6, pp.307-348. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 5.261MB).

Maria (Connie) Tornatore-Loong

PhD (Arts) Candidate & Curatorial Assistant, PhD (Arts) Candidate: School of Letters, Art and Media,, Faculty of Arts: Department of Art History and Film Studies, Curatorial Assistant: University Art Gallery & Art Collection, Sydney University Museums, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Maria (Connie) Tornatore-Loong is a PhD (Arts) Candidate in the Department of Art History and Film Studies at the University of Sydney, and the Curatorial Assistant at the University Art Gallery & Art Collection, Sydney University Museums. Tornatore-Loong has previously worked as Assistant Curator, Australian Art at the Art Gallery of New South Wales and has curated ‘Poesia Visiva: Italian Concrete & Visual Poetry of the 1960s & 1970s’ (2009) and co-curated ‘Japan in Sydney: Professor Sadler & modernism, 1920-30s’ (2011) for the University Art Gallery. Tornatore- Loong has also worked for Dictionary of Australian Artists Online and as a casual associate lecturer and teaching assistant in the University of Sydney’s Department of Art History and Film Studies for ‘Modern Australian Art & Cinema’and ‘Modern Times – Art & Film’ (2004-2007). Tornatore-Loong holds a BA (Art History and Theory; Performance Studies, 2001) and a Master of Arts (Curatorship and Modern Art, 2003) from the University of Sydney.

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