by Julia Couzens
Since Beat poet Bob Kaufman spouted Hart Crane in the bars and coffee galleries of North Beach and Wallace Berman published Semina, San Francisco has nurtured collaborations between poetry and art. Silicon Valley may devour glittering art fairs byte-by-byte, while museum-size galleries become juggernauts of money. But the quiet, multi-faceted treasure that is Lightning Strikes |18 poets.18 artists. reveals the beating heart of San Francisco’s abiding love for the poet’s voice sharing space with visual art. Wallace Stevens understood that the poet and the painter were co-conspirators working in the ether between imagination and reality. He saw both arts as possessing a prophetic stature, offering a “vital assertion of self in a world where nothing but the self remains, if that remains.”
As such, the exhibition requires time and attention to fully experience its gifts of wit, unexpected insights and slow-moving experiential currents. Take Alice Jones’ poem The World. Its dense distillation of sensory experience is echoed by Jenifer Kent’s obsessive ink-on-clayboard drawing, Score, a radiant, starburst cluster of tiny, incremental lines splattered across the surface like the “thousand sharp leaves pressed against the window” in Jones’ poem. The staccato, flat-footed rhythm of Troung Tran’s Speculative Notes accumulates energy just as the found paper scraps and wedges do in Retract the word, forthwith, a collage by Matt Gonzales defined by herky-jerky turns and hard rights in a rectilinear thicket of gold.
Blanco’s Looking for the Gulf Motel takes us on a tender journey along the “whiter sands on the west coast of Florida” in search of childhood memories: his Cuban immigrant parents dancing in the long ago dark, and a brother building a vision of teenage desire in the sand. Without disparaging or sentimentalizing longing, the two works present a romantic exaltation of the senses in the interplay between the visible world and the equally present one unseen.