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Paul Forte, Mantle (after a fashion), 2007, dressmaker’s mannequin, cut and pinned photocopies, 64” x 13” x 10”.


Suzanne Volmer

It is rare for an AS220 Project Space exhibitor to get extra square footage for an exhibition. However, this luxury
is provided to Paul Forte for his “The Alchemy of Collage — Selected Works 2005-2016” collection of visual poetry in order to give breathing room to the show’s complex and thoughtful compression of data. The simplicity of the layout will give audiences the benefit of receiving Forte’s conceptual information without peripheral distraction.

Forte had just finished planning the arrangement of his art when I recently visited him at his studio, and he had a list of titles jotted on a copy of the gallery floor plan. The show’s layout positioned “Mantle (After a Fashion),” a three-dimensional arrangement, to be visible from the front window. A number of large two-dimensional collage works, including “Desert Parcel (Book Fragments)” and “Tangle,” would hang in the main gallery, while Forte’s artist books and folio constructs would be presented in the Reading Room.

The artist’s exhibition catalogue contains a quote from Apollinaire about collage as a process: “It is impossible to foresee all the possibilities, all the tendencies of an art so profound and painstaking.” This quote is a helpful and informative prompt, because Forte’s collage works often relate the same wonderment and confusion that Apollinaire describes, mixing text with physical form to forward an idea as art. Forte describes himself as a “cognitivist.” His visual poetry explores a journey of knowing with an obsessive attention to detail. He carefully organizes particulars to shape contemporary meaning while offering the opportunity of a backward glance toward the past. There is gravity and sometimes humor about what he hopes will emerge as realization for viewers.

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