‘Twenty-six things at once’: Pragmatic perspectives on Frank O’Hara and Norman Bluhm’s Poem-Paintings

Catherine Gander

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Created over a couple of Sunday mornings in the Fall of 1960, the twenty-six collaborative Poem-Paintings of the artist Norman Bluhm and the poet Frank O'Hara represent what Bluhm later called a spontaneous 'conversation' between the painter and the poet. In this essay, Catherine Gander adopts a number of pragmatist positions to reconsider these overlooked works as essential examples of verbal-visual interaction that extend their 'conversation' to greet and involve us in a relationship that is at once interpersonal, integrated, and embodied. The works, Gander argues, constitute what John Dewey terms 'art as experience'; in their back and forth exchange of verbal and visual gesture, abstraction and denotation, the Poem-Paintings are the 'cumulative continuity' of 'the process of living', dramatising the shifting, spontaneous and multiple dimensions of interpersonal conversation, and in so doing, indicating a new path toward interconnective and equal exchange between word and image.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMixed Messages: American Correspondences in Visual and Verbal Practices
EditorsCatherine Gander, Sarah Garland
PublisherManchester University Press
Publication statusPublished - 01 Sept 2016


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