Archive for Helen Adam

The Collages of Helen Adam

“I have always believed in inter-penetrating universes.” — Helen Adam

Co-published with Cuneiform Press, in conjunction with The Poetry Collection of the University Libraries, University at Buffalo, and with the additional help of both Robert Hershon and Cuneiform Press, Further Other Book Works is thrilled to announce our first art monograph: The Collages of Helen Adam. Featuring forty stand-alone collages, the last state of the collage poem “In Harpy Land,” Adam’s photos from the 1964 Buzz Gallery poet’s show, as well as two occasional collage suites (for Robert Duncan and Bob Hershon), as well as essays by James Maynard, Alison Fraser, Lew Ellingham, Samuel R. Delany, Robert Hershon, and Kristin Prevallet.

Clothbound, smythe-sewn. 176 pages. Color printing throughout.

Author pic and “And the cards you favor win” courtesy of Robert Hershon. All other images courtesy of The Poetry Collection of the University Libraries, University at Buffalo.

From Alison Fraser’s introduction to her selection of collages for this volume:

In the late 1970s, Helen Adam wrote to Robert Duncan about “some pleasing weird collages” she had made, noting that her sister was ultimate arbiter of their quality: “I always know they would work if Pat says, ‘No! No! I can’t bear to look at them!’” While Adam is best known for high-spirited performances of her witchy ballads, her substantial portfolio of visual work—which includes hundreds of scrapbooks, collages, and photographs—has been largely overlooked. Yet visual expression was a vital aspect of Adam’s creative life and demonstrates how Adam’s poetics was shaped by her close familial relationships as much as by her participation in poetry communities. Helen and Pat lived together their entire lives, shunning marriage for a coven of two, and their radical housekeeping, which included artistic collaboration, reveals that the creative space they curated in their home offered an alternative to the male-dominated arts scene. The resulting visual work recontextualizes Helen’s poetic practice and repositions our attention from her coterie of male peers to the marginalized realm of the home and family.

–Alison Fraser

And from James Maynard’s essay on the Helen Adam archive:

Although some writers like Robert Duncan had professed her significance from the beginning, there has been, at least since the late 1980s, a determined attempt by critics such as Michael Davidson and especially Kristin Prevallet to reconsider Helen Adam’s (1909-1993) importance as a literary figure within the San Francisco Renaissance. More recently, however, thanks again to Prevallet and the 2007 Helen Adam Reader she edited, followed in 2013 by the traveling exhibition An Opening of the Field: Jess, Robert Duncan, and Their Circle, there has been a second reappraisal of Helen Adam as a collage artist. By bringing together for the first time in print the largest number of her collages ever assembled, The Collages of Helen Adam hopes to promote the continued appreciation of Adam as a visual artist. And, as is often a prerequisite for artistic reevaluations, this collection does so by making available previously unknown materials from her archive.

–James Maynard

Read more from Fraser and Maynard‘s intros at Full Stop.

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