Disguise the Limit: John Yau’s Collaborations
This exhibition features the collaborative works that poet/author/critic John Yau has created with a range of visual artists during the past four decades. These include paintings, mixed media works on paper, print portfolios, artist books, and letterpress broadsides. As he says, “I’m into every way a poem can be done.”
Yau’s poetry is infused with humor and intelligence, and he uses a variety of poetic forms to examine aspects of his Chinese-American identity, visual art and film, detective novels, and popular culture. His critical writing is celebrated for providing fresh insights about already codified artists and for helping to situate diverse image and object makers into historical contexts and traditions. As a regular contributor to the online blog Hyperallergic.com, Yau reviews exhibitions of emerging and established artists, analyzing specific works with a keen eye and deep knowledge of studio practices.
What has not been recognized is the scope of Yau’s co-creations with artists including Norman Bluhm, Tom Burckhardt, Squeak Carnwath, Max Gimblett, Judy Ledgerwood, Archie Rand, Pat Steir, Carol Szymanski, Richard Tuttle, Chuck Webster, and many others. The result of friendships and shared sensibilities, these works reveal the poet’s embrace of both representation and abstraction as foils for language generation.
Offering nimble turns of phrase, zen koans, road sign warnings, fragments and completed poems, Yau is clearly in his element when acting in the performative time/space that collaboration requires.
IMAGE: John Yau and Tom Burckhardt, A Void Going Back, 2022, oil on panel. Courtesy of John Yau and Tom Burckhardt.