Poetic Objects:
The Commonplace Transformed


Paul Forte. Emergent Self, 2019, reproduction fragments (paintings) on board, 34 1/2 x 39 inches

An experimental approach to art making, coupled with an abiding sense of the poetic, are the hallmarks of my art. It is an art that has explored this approach and sensibility through a variety of media and artforms over the years: text works, poetry, artist’s books and bookworks, performance art, drawings, paintings, collage, assemblage, and constructions. Central to much of this work is the use of found or readymade material. While this practice is widespread, it doesn’t always lead to compelling results. What seems required is an experimental and poetic approach to art making that makes ideas clear and palpable. This is where cognition or the cognitive enters the picture. The clarity and concreteness of an artwork stems from an active imagination and an awareness of the many ways that we think, see and feel about things. Poetic ideas can be developed from found things by paying attention to and utilizing their salient or unusual characteristics. In my work, the ideas thus realized are generally of a symbolic and or metaphorical nature: poetic ideas expressed in either visual or verbal terms, or both. Given the broad range of my art making over almost fifty years, categorizing it in terms of recognizable media or artforms serves to highlight its ongoing experimental nature. Many of the artworks represented here are hybrids in the sense that they could be categorized in more than one way. How a work is classified depends upon what aspect of the work is emphasized. A particular artwork might have elements of both a text work and a collage, or elements of both a bookwork and a construction. Any categorization of artwork is somewhat arbitrary, but it is a helpful tool, especially when the artist seems to have no appreciable “signature style.” Considering the experimental nature of much of my work, it follows that many of the artworks have inspired written commentaries; musings on the processes of their making and offering possible interpretations as to their meaning or significance. For the creative artist, creativity doesn’t end with the artwork; it is an interrelated or integrative process bringing to bear perception, imagination, thought and feeling, for artist and audience alike.



1969 California College of Arts and Crafts, Oakland



1990 Pollack/Krasner Foundation Fellowship Award

1978 National Endowment for the Arts, Artist’s Fellowship Award


Selected One Person Exhibitions

2017 AS220 Project Space, Providence, Rhode Island: “The Alchemy of Collage”

2014 The University of Rhode Island, Kingston, Rhode Island. “Poetic Vision: The Art of Paul Forte”

1998 Kim Foster Gallery, New York City (boxes and cases)

1981 80 Langton Street, San Francisco (photo-installation and video art)

1980 Museum of Conceptual art. San Francisco (performance art)

1977 La Mamelle Gallery. San Francisco (Artist’s books, sculpture)

1976 La Mamelle Gallery. San Francisco (installation art)

1976 San Francisco Art Institute. “The Annual” (performance art)


Selected Group Exhibitions

2019 Concord Center for the Visual Arts, Concord, Massachusetts. “Unfolding Object.” (collage and assemblage)

2013 Hera Gallery, Wakefield, Rhode Island. “Transformed Volumes” (Artist’s book works)

2012 The Thompson Gallery, Weston, Massachusetts. “Traditional and Avant-Garde Collage.” (collage and assemblage)

2011 Wattis Institute, San Francisco, California. “God Only Knows Who The Audience Is: Performance, Video, and Television Through the Lens of La Mamelle.” (video art)

2007 Francis Naumann Fine Art, New York, New York. “The Conceptual Object” (assemblage)

2004 Real Art Ways, Hartford, Connecticut. “Work from the Lewitt Collection.” (poetic object, hand-made prints)

2003 Baltic, The Centre for Contemporary Art, Gates Head, England. “Outside of a Dog” (Artist’s books)

1999 The Alternative Museum, New York, New York, “A Millennium Exhibition” (assemblage)

1991 The Wadsworth Athenaeum, Hartford, Connecticut, “Open Mind: The Lewitt Collection” (constructions)

1986 Center for the Visual Arts, Oakland, California, “Making Signs” (drawings)

1983 San Francisco Art Institute (drawings and poetic objects)

1979 San Francisco Museum of Modern Art “La Mamelle Gallery Survey” (Artist’s books, video art)

1978 A Space, Toronto, Canada, Video installation, Performance art

1977 Mandeville Gallery, University of California, San Diego, California, Artist’s books

1975 San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, California, “Information Show” (drawings and poetic objects)



2014 The University of Rhode Island, Kingston, Rhode Island, “Poetic Vision”

2013 Hera Gallery, Wakefield, Rhode Island, “Transformed Volumes”

2006 The University of Rhode Island, Philosophy Department: “Poetic Objects: The Commonplace Transformed”

2004 The Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Providence, The Artists Speak Program: “The Poetry of Detritus”

1997 The California College of Arts and Crafts, Oakland, Visiting Artist’s Workshop: “Ideas About Form”

1997 Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island: “Artwork Survey: 1973-1996”

1997 Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York: “Artwork Survey: 1973-1996”

1995 Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island: “Honors Critique Program”

1982 The University of California, Berkeley: “Notes on Recent Artwork”



2019 Paul Crowther, “Theory of the Art Object” (Advances in Art and Visual Studies Series, Routledge Press)

2017 The Review of World Literature, No. 3, 2017 (Slovakia: Editor/translator, Peter Macsovszky)

2017 Suzanne Volmer, Artscope Magazine. “Wonderment and Confusion, Paul Forte, Visual Poet” (May/June)

2017 Experiencing Liveness in Contemporary Performance, Interdisciplinary Perspectives (edited by Matthew Reason, Anja Molle Lindelof (Routledge Press)

2017 Eclipse Archive (online publication) “Trilogy”

2013 Numero Cinq Magazine (online publication). Essay and artwork, “Visual Thinking and Cognitive Exploration” (December)

2013 Numero Cinq Magazine. Essay and artwork, “Transformed Volumes” (June)

2013 Numero Cinq Magazine. Essay and artwork, “Apothecary” (March)

2009 Doug Norris, South County Independent, “Artist’s Fresh Vision enlivens old mill” (January)

2007 Arthur C. Danto. Lecture/review, “Paul Forte’s Headstone at Yale” (Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut)

1998 Ken Johnson, The New York Times, “David Eckard and Paul Forte” (Art in Review, January 16)

1998 Robert C. Morgan. Review: “The Critical State of Art in New York” (January)

1978 Will Torphy, Artweek, “Making Signs” (January)

1983 Thomas Albright, San Francisco Chronicle, “A Sampler of Coherence, Skill” (August 1).


Selected Collections

Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut: Word work

Mills College, Oakland, California: Drawings

University of California Los Angeles: Artist’s books

Museum of Modern Art, New York: Artist’s Books

Pacific Film Archive University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, California: Artist’s Books

Videos from La Mamelle Collection. Stanford University and the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin: Artist’s Books

Sterling and Francine Clark Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts: Artist’s Books

University of California, San Diego Library: Artist’s Books

Sol Lewitt Collection, Chester, Connecticut: Constructions.



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