Form and Expression: The Written Word. September 18 – December 7. Brunnier Museum, Iowa State University, Ames, IA, February 4 – March 21, 2014.

(Image of Brochure Layout)

Thomas Ingmire – Introduction to Exhibition Brochure, 2014

In 2004 I began a collaborative project with Manuel Neri that lasted five years and resulted in the creation of 16 unique books: seven feature the poetry of Pablo Neruda, and nine feature poems by Federico García Lorca. Each book contains from seven to nine original drawings by Manuel Neri. The books also include an introduction written by Manuel Neri’s long-time model, Mary Julia Klimenko, biographies of the artists and poets, and colophon page. All of the texts are in Spanish and English and are written in calligraphy. East Coast bookbinder Daniel Kelm designed and executed the structures for the books.

The special task for me was the creation of pages facing Neri’s drawings. I worked with the challenge of seeing the calligraphy in a supporting role, and yet at the same time finding a way to give the texts both a visual and signified relationship to the images. I wanted to avoid obvious associations between word and image. I mainly took my letter design and composition clues from the drawings: their character, color, line, and particularly the shape of the figures and the spaces they occupied. This led to a calligraphy that, in a curious way, became the connector between the works of the poets and those of the artist. Each retained a kind of autonomy, as neither element became an illustration of the others.

The collaboration led me not only to a new way of thinking about calligraphy in its relationship to text, but also a renewed interest in making artists’ books. The pages for some of the books in this collaboration were created from lettering studies also included in this exhibition: Some Souls February 8, 1920; The Guitar; Calligraphic Testaments; Lorca Neri Calligraphic Studies; Suites Song; Crossroad, and St. Raphael.

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