Since the late 1940s, the acclaimed New York School poet John Ashbery has been fascinated and engaged in the process of collage making. Ashbery builds upon his influences: Cubist paintings of Braque and Picasso, the collage novels of Max Ernst, Kurt Schwitters and Joseph Cornell. The work and encouragement of his friends and contemporary artists, such as Joe Brainard and Trevor Winkfield, have had a tremendous impact on Ashbery’s collages. He combines high and low culture with equal doses of art historical and pop culture references.
Ashbery’s poetic sensibility, typically characterized as surrealist, carries through in his visual collage compositions as he re-associates imagery often into often humorous juxtapositions. As the reader can be delighted by the unexpected surprises in Ashbery’s lines, so too can the collage viewer be tickled by the hilarious occurrences in his maddening visual logic. Just as he has been championed for pushing boundaries in the canon of poetry, John Ashbery continues to expand perimeters in his collages.
John Ashbery was born in Rochester, New York in 1927, and graduated cum laude from Harvard University in 1949. Almost immediately after moving to New York City, he began a life long friendship with the painter Jane Freilicher and established himself with the New York School of Poets. Ashbery is widely considered one of the most celebrated living American poets winning nearly every major America award in poetry including the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, a MacArthur Fellowship, a Pulitzer in 1976 for his poetry collection Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He served as executive editor of Art News and as the art critic for New York magazine and Newsweek. In 2012 President Obama awarded Ashbery the National Medal in Humanities. John Ashbery continued to be an important and inspiring figure in the poetic and visual art community until his passing in September of 2017 though his death will likely not hinder the spread of his inspiration and influence.