Magazine article Artforum International

George Schneeman: Poets House

Magazine article Artforum International

George Schneeman: Poets House

Article excerpt

I HEARD THE VOICE OF THE PORK CHOP SAY, COME UNTO ME AND REST. This block-lettered gospel fills two opposite corners of Pork Chop, 1970-73, a collaborative collage by the painter George Schneeman and the poet Larry Fagin. An upside-down, ochre-colored sofa sectional hovers in the bottom-left corner, while in the top right, a cartoon-strip cel captions a high-speed car crash: WHUMMP!

A fixture on the scene at St. Marks Church-in-the-Bowery, Schneeman (1934-2009) thrived on these kinds of freewheeling collaborations, churning out myriad collages, book covers, and paintings of and alongside second-generation New York School poets such as Fagin, Ted Berrigan, Peter Schjeldahl, and Anne Waldman. His graphic sensibilities sampled heavily from pop culture, with an audacity and deftness that suggests an East Village answer to Eduardo Paolozzi. That Schneeman's own oeuvre is not better known is a testament to his generosity; in a market that placed an imperative on individual authorship, Schneeman worked within a close network of friends, with whom the majority of his paintings, collages, and works on paper have remained.

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Titled "A Painter and His Poets," this recentsurvey of one hundred paintings and works on paper was organized by two of Schneeman's closest confederates, Bill Berkson and Ron Padgett. As the title indicates, the exhibition (which will remain on view until September 20) emphasizes the artist's relationships to those around him, setting up his status as both a center of gravity for the community (his studio served as a hangout for poets) and its chronicler. While the bulk of the works on display are collaborations from the late 1960s and early 1970s, the first gallery delivers a roll call of the scene, filling a series of vitrines with samples of book covers and portraits. Poets such as Eileen Myles, Edwin Denby, and Allen Ginsberg appear on a series of cinder blocks, painted between 1977 and 1979 using the fresco technique Schneeman had picked up while living in Italy in the late 1950s and early '60s. A second set of portraits from 1980 offers deadpan odes on Grecian urns, with profiles of poets Rene Ricard, John Godfrey, and Schjeldahl (gamely portrayed as Hamlet) starkly outlined in black and white on ceramic vases. …

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