24th September, 2021 / 19:30 -
1st May, 2015
CHELSEA space is pleased to announce Ken Cox: Poetry Machines as the second exhibition in our spring programme. A highly influential sculptor of the British concrete poetry movement, Ken Cox was a creator of kinetically powered poetry machines that made words move in space as material objects. Cox’s career was cut tragically short in November 1968 when he was fatally injured in a car accident, just months after his first solo show at the Lisson Gallery. This is the first time his works have been shown in London since then, re-asserting Cox as a significant figure in the concrete poetry movement.
The exhibition reactivates works such as Seasons Clock (1965), the hanging multiple, Suncycle (1968), The Three Graces (1966 -68) (Latin Version) and one of the five Elemental Balloon Poems (1967). These works explore the wide range of formal possibilities of the material of language within the spatial and kinetic dimensions of art. Here letters do not correspond to semiotic language, but instead show a curiously textual approach to sculpture, in which words are not so much read as felt. In a review from July 1968, Guy Brett wrote of the Elemental Balloon Poems:
‘One room is entirely filled by large, soft coloured balloons. They are revolving on stands which keep them full of air at a low pressure and light them up inside. The orange Balloon is ringed at its centre by the word “earth” printed without gaps so it spells “heart” as the balloon circles. The green one has ocean bobbing up and down just below the center and so on. These objects dispense with descriptive words, and try to intensify a single word by linking it to an easily grasped experience of space and interval’
Also exhibited is Shadow Box (1965), Cox’s first poetry machine initially shown at the OXPO 2nd International Exhibition of Experimental Poetry, Oxford in 1965. Thrown into the river by Oxford students protesting the farcical nature of the exhibition, the work has been revived and will feature alongside other rarely seen drawings and ephemera. Also included is documentation relating to the 30ft high floating version of The Three Graces (Love, Beauty, Passion) (1967). Made for the Concrete Poetry Exhibition, Brighton Festival, it was destroyed in a storm after being at sea for 10 days.