William Allen: Here Today...

November 8, 2014 - January 3, 2015

Cade Tompkins Projects is pleased to announce an exhibition of exquisite poem-paintings by William Allen on view November 8, 2014 - January 3, 2015.


Painter, printmaker and poet, William Allen has been working in the world of words and images for three decades. A child of Fluxus art, concrete and political poetry, and historical curiosities, he works in a tradition where words and images go hand in hand. Allen orchestrates language, taking apart taxonomies and recombining categorical knowledge in visual haiku, straining for bits of wisdom, precision, philosophy or humor.


Allen's work explores the formal quality of words, their acoustics and ambiguities. It seeks out the luxuriousness and languor of words joyfully lolling off the tongue. The works in Here Today… quietly assert the beauty of language and our brainy lists, from paleo food, gene names, undersea life, endangered creatures that are here today...and gone tomorrow? — to cult geographies that reveal our arbitrary sciences of naming. Add assonance and alliteration, and you have a poem-painting on the wall. Vying with information overload, Allen builds his web of words in art's world, with tangible materials — wood, aluminum and brushes full of hardware paint.


This smart-art-meets-sign-painting is meticulous and meditative, where folk art and signature become the voice. As a viewer reads out loud, patterns emerge, flow together or get dizzy with idiosyncratic prose. A recent work, My Friend the Dog, plays with the problem of what lies beneath the painted script. Here, names of beloved dog breeds are rendered on aluminum 'Beware of the Dog' signs, looking for what's tender as well as taut. Although not obvious at a glance, the artist takes pleasure in the secret, subtle shifts of meaning between form and function, between the underlying primal message and its frisky recreation.


William Allen's work has been included in exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, the Tate Modern, PS 1, Momenta Art, Harvard University, Williams College, Newark Museum, Ann Norton Sculpture Garden, on the NYC subway, and Buffalo metro bus lines. His prints with Clay Street Press are made on different surfaces like street signs, Egyptian cotton, limestone and zinc. He is a recipient of a Queens Council on the Arts Fellowship (2012) for his Queens street names paintings, and a National Endowment of the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship (2009) for Bannister's Landscapes, a set of poems about the Providence, RI African-American Beaux Arts painter with very telling titles for his paintings. His two published books of poems are The Man on the Moon (Persea and NYU Presses, 1987) and Sevastopol: On Photographs of War (Xenos Press, 1997). New poetry includes “The Largest Glue Factory in the World” (a history of the Newtown Creek), “21 Stations” about the 7 train in New York, and “Linea Eins,” on the German U-Bahn of the Berlin Wall.