Visual Poetry. Pictographs mixes the different types of picture-writing with fragments of prose-writings in a formal arrangement linked to West African visual traditions. Keith's constructions emply designs intended to be scanned metrically, a visual counterpart to the off-beat phrasing of melodic accents in African and Afro-American music. Keith's writing seems to be suspended between two othernesses: painting and music. The staggered siting of glyphs and signs marks the subtle crossover from picture language to picture theory. Text runs in strips against a black background, not so much as arguments to follow as seams joining master and slave narratives. In Keith's discourse on his situation as a poet in a late capitalist society, a picture emerges of an artist who in mastering his art becomes a slave to it.
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William "Bill" Keith (January 20, 1929 - September 1, 2004) was an American artist who began his artistic life as a painter, but moved into photography and visual poetry. His visual poetry ran a full gamut from calligrams inspired by Apollinaire and other early 20th Century French poets to Lettrisme to the Minimalism and Op Art of the 1960s. As his work developed, he concentrated increasingly on African and African-American themes and sources. The development toward African roots and branches lead away from the Roman alphabet and more toward the store of iconography and symbolism from Egypt to South Africa to the American diaspora. As he progressed, he developed graphic techniques suggested by textiles, wood carvings, bronze casts, ceramics, and other indigenous arts. He built up rhythmic patterns through repetitions of graphic elements from sources as diverse as road signs and zebra stripes. Keith's work as a whole becomes a celebration of the adventures of African sources as they moved and interacted with the rest of the world. Individual works may initially seem merely decorative, but familiarity reveals a call to the kinetics and dynamics of celebration. Keith is survived by his twin sons, Antar and Tarik, to whom he dedicated his book Pictographs to.
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Book Description Left Hand Books, 1996. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M1880516209