Beyonsense: The Russian Avant-garde and the Illustrated Book, 1913-1920

Begin Date2006-07-21
End Date2006-10-22
CuratorsHeather MacDonald
Alternate Text TypeText Panel
Alternate Text"The word leads a double lifeâ026Sometimes sense says to sound 'I hear and obey'; at other times pure sound says the same thing to pure sense. This struggle between two worlds, between two powers, goes on eternally in every word and gives a double life to language: two possible orbits for two spinning stars." --Velimir Khlebnikov, On Contemporary Poetry The artists whose work is included in this exhibition challenges the very notion of what constitutes a book, an image, a text, a word, and even a letter. The exhibition includes examples from a new kind of illustrated book, created by a group of visual artists and poets working collaboratively in Russia in the 1910s. Velimir Khlebnikov and Alexsei Kruchenykh, two poets of the Cubo-Futurist movement, together developed a concept of language that they called zaum, often translated as "transrational" or "beyonsense." Khlebnikov defined beyonsense as "language situated beyond the boundaries of ordinary reason, just as we say 'beyond the river' or 'beyond the sea.'" The poetry and criticism produced by the Cubo-Futurists was often playful, but it was also challenging, demanding that the reader move beyond the accepted meanings of words or sounds to consider them as independent units of meaning and expression. These poets frequently collaborated with visual artists such as Kasimir Malevich, Natalia Goncharova, Olga Rozanova, and others on small illustrated volumes, which were often self-published and distributed outside official channels. They are fragile documents that reflect a moment of radical experimentation with language, sound, and form.
OrganizerDallas Museum of Art
DescriptionThis exhibition explores a moment of radical experimentation on the illustrated book. During the first decades of the 20th century, Russian avant-garde artists and poets collaborated on small illustrated volumes of poetry, theory, and prose in which text merges with illustration, and written language becomes visual imagery. In the pages from these books, visitors will be confronted with an innovative, challenging, and playful confusion of word and image. The exhibition features the work of Kazimir Malevich, Natalia Goncharova, Nikolai Kulbin, El Lissitzsky, and others.