John Ashbery’s Collages

The American poet and art critic John Ashbery has a show of collages, They Knew What They Wanted, at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery on Fifth Avenue in New York City. Tibor de Nagy has had a long association with poets of the New York School; it has even published books of poems, for instance, Ashbery’s Turandot and Other Poems and Frank O’Hara’s Lunch Poems, illustrated by Larry Rivers.

Some of the collages date from Ashbery’s undergraduate days at Harvard; many are brand new. One set pays homage to his friend, the inventive and mercurial artist, Joe Brainard.

The show’s title refers to a 1940 movie directed by Garson Kanin from a play by Sidney Howard. Depicting a love triangle, They Knew What They Wanted starred Carole Lombard and Charles Laughton.

Also on view are Trevor Winkfields bright acrylic pictures that present lighthearted visual rhymes.

Below: Acrobats (circa 1972), a collage by John Ashbery. Photo courtesy of Tibor de Nagy Gallery.

Below: Chutes and Ladders (For Joe Brainard, 2008), a collage by John Ashbery. Photo courtesy of Tibor de Nagy Gallery.

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5 thoughts on “John Ashbery’s Collages

  1. Joseph M.

    Hi Maureen! I am an amateur at memorizing lines, but here are a few. There is a line from a poem in April Galleons that has always made me laugh: "Gardeners cannot make the world, nor witches undo it." My favorite poem of JA’s is A Wave. (I just realized this.) There is a line: "What did I do to deserve this submline rind of excitement?" Finally, I have always adored "Into the Dusk-Charged Air" with its beautiful catalogue of rivers. I would love to hear it recited like "Litany"–but with a singer in the background performing "Shenandoah." Thanks, that was fun!

  2. Maureen

    I forgot to ask Joseph and anyone else who wants to play: what is your favorite Ashbery poem and/or line from an Ashbery poem?
    I’ll start things off: "No one did much about eating."

  3. Joseph Mihelarakis

    Hi Maureen– Those collages are absolutely beautiful! The first thing I noticed was how colorful they are. Thanks for blogging about them. It is amazing how JA continues to surprise. I am so proud of him–if that is something you can say about a person who happens to be a national treasure.
    I am a subsriber and am enjoying the magazine (and site). You and your staff are doing a wonderful job at furthering its purposes while exposing the readership to new artists in the international art world. Thank you.