Blog post by Dr. Melody Davis
Codrescu for the Holiday Break
We have a sparse calligraphic tradition in the West. In other parts of the world, such as Asia, Africa, and Islamic cultures, the interdependence of word-form and image is treated with respect, even reverence. How can we truly separate them, after all? Ion Codrescu’s haiga painting current on exhibit at Union College’s Mandeville Gallery invigorates for the Western viewer the Japanese practice of painted haiku. Codrescu expertly combines calligraphy of English-language haiku with brush painting, creating a hybrid art form. He manages to close or tightly layer the gaps between linguistic meaning and art. If Ferdinand Saussure were correct that the signifier has an arbitrary relation to the signified, and all of language rests on this gap, then Codrescu allows language, with its absent position vis à vis desire, to function as visual art, as icon. There are only positive terms. Interestingly, the Mandeville is a suspended circular gallery in the Nott Memorial Building on campus. I kept going around and around, reading the poem, then the calligraphy, then the brush painting, and, finally, the symphonic totality. The emptiness at the center of the central-plan building became for me all that was lost in the process: the disembodied centrality of logos (word) in our culture, the disconnection of word and desire, the arbitrary relation of word to object or image, the segregation our culture has placed between language and art. Poetry and art cannot be colonized as separate territories. Allow Codrescu to show you how to exit that box, but don’t delay; the exhibit is open through November 29, 2015, at the Mandeville Gallery, Nott Memorial Chapel, Union College, Schenectady, NY, open daily 10-6 p.m.