New York

Adja Yunkers

Zabriskie Gallery

In a special edition, Adja Yunkers illuminated Blanco, a poem by Octavio Paz, either in silkscreens, lithographs, or intaglio images. In this, their second collaboration in book publishing, two poets, one of the pen, the other of the brush, invite us to a feast of the eye and a delectation of the mind. Adja Yunkers, by labeling his contribution “illuminations“ directly renews the link with Rimbaud, the poet of the alchemy of colors and words. As Andre Breton had translated this theme in terms of “les mots font l’amour” (“words make love”) so Octavio Paz rephrases it when he speaks of “two syllables in love.” Unlike Miró who refers to Rimbaud and Breton in both his Sourire de ma blonde and Sourire de ma brune by combining writing with images, Adja Yunkers illuminates Paz’s poem with indeterminate forms. Bull-red strokes evoke “blood river, river of histories of blood,” sinuous vertical intaglio illuminate “the river of your body,” pictorial juggleries recall “conjugations, juggleries entering me while entering your body, rivers of sun.” The longer we gaze at a page, the better we understand “unreality of the seen all that remains is transparence.” Finally everything is united and “dissolved in a foliage of clarity refuge of fallen realities.” Pages in which the text is in intaglio by blind, or colorless, printing, bring to mind the first lines of the poem: “the fountain the seed latent word on the tip of the tongue unheard unhearable indivisible gravid void ageless she they buried with open eyes innocent promiscuous the word nameless speechless it ascends it descends.” So do the poet’s lines with caesuras that encourage the eye to descend first along the left half of the page then along the right one before reading the poem horizontally.

Manifestly the poet, at this starting point, is closer to Mallarmé than to the Surrealists. But Yunkers confronts the poet’s change of moods with a steady balance, here and there congealing the flowing colors into emblems, erotic, sanguine and luminous. Overlapping transparent colors shift the tonalities of green or yellow, invoking shadows of more sombre moods that pass through the mind of poet and artist. Like others before him, but none with more understanding, Yunkers is fascinated by the magnetism of printed characters. Each double page, 14 in all, varies in layout. Yunkers expresses his appreciation of a writer who knows how to picture his poem on a sheet of paper, by occasionally confronting a sanguine left side with a black ink right side.

While Paz is apt to resort to Cubist, or rather post-Cubist literary attempts at simultaneity, there is nothing Cubist or Constructivist in Yunkers’s “illuminations.” In contrast with Picasso’s brushstrokes that interlock with Reverdy’s handwriting in “Le Chant des Morts,” or Miró’s tracings that recreate the images of Eluard or René Char, Yunkers asserts his presence without ever infringing on the poet’s domain. Perhaps more than most artists, Yunkers is seduced by the alchemy of reproduction, and often blesses the results with a final stroke of hand painting. Embossing, collages, and intaglio, tilt the flatness of surfaces to accommodate the eye with a slanting glance, and the fingers with a tactile perception of oblique perspective. What a pleasure it can be to indulge in those rare books that are not only for the transmission of information! Illuminations and poems are elaborated by means of analogical thinking. For analogical, not illustrative, is the rapport between poet and artist.

I do not know of any living poet whose voice reverberates so stirringly as does that of Octavio Paz and in Blanco, concentrated rays shoot at a luminous vision. As sensuous in his expression as is the poet, Adja Yunkers keys his skills to the chords of lyricism; distinct and vibrant are the notes.

Nicolas Calas