Reverie: Christopher Wilmarth, Before and After Mallarmé

, University Study Gallery, Harvard Art Museums
  • "Reverie: Christopher Wilmarth, Before and After Mallarmé - A Symposium" May 19, 2017, Deknatel Hall, Harvard Art Museums In 1978, sculptor Christopher Wilmarth was asked by poet Frederick Morgan to recommend an illustrator for his translation of a group of seven poems by the French symbolist Stéphane Mallarmé. Wilmarth was so moved by the poetry that he offered to undertake the project himself. Wilmarth found a parallel to his own artistic sensibility in Mallarmé’s effort to purify language—to use it abstractly—so that it would not describe an object in any literal sense: “The essence of a work consists precisely in what is not expressed,” the poet wrote. Wilmarth remarked in turn: “Mallarmé’s work is about the anguish and longing of experience not fully realized, and I found something of myself in it.”
  • The Whole Soul Summed Up

    The Whole Soul Summed Up

  • When Winter on Forgotten Woods Moves Somber...

    When Winter on Forgotten Woods Moves Somber...

  • The Whole Soul Summed Up...

    The Whole Soul Summed Up...

  • Photograph: Christopher Wilmarth and Larry Huff at work at on

    Photograph: Christopher Wilmarth and Larry Huff at work at on "Breath" at CCAC, 1983

    Same image as CW2001.1472, though different print process.

  • Sculpture specification: maquette for sculpture, 1987

    Sculpture specification: maquette for sculpture, 1987

    Maquette for 1987 bronze version of Alba Sweeps (original, 1973). Instructions handwritten on recto and verso. Copyright and title handwritten on verso (see Marks).

  • Sculpture specification: Long Straight Stray, 1976

    Sculpture specification: Long Straight Stray, 1976

    Diagrams and instructions for steel section (2 pieces) of Long Straight Stray (1978). Corrections made to sheet with white stickers. Labeled M in artist's hand. From envelope titled "1-1-77 / WALLPIECES /A-O."

  • Photograph of Christopher Wilmarth and Larry Huff at the California College of Arts and Crafts working on a

    Photograph of Christopher Wilmarth and Larry Huff at the California College of Arts and Crafts working on a "Breath" sculpture, 1983

    Notes in Wilmarth's hand on verso. See Marks.

  • Untitled

    Untitled

  • When Winter on forgotten woods moves somber...

    When Winter on forgotten woods moves somber...

  • Sigh

    Sigh

  • Toast

    Toast

  • Structure (A Back)

    Structure (A Back)

  • The Whole Soul Summed Up

    The Whole Soul Summed Up

  • Sigh

    Sigh

  • Saint

    Saint

  • Saint

    Saint

  • Poetry reading at the opening of

    Poetry reading at the opening of "Breath" exhibition, Studio for the First Amendment, New York

    1) Gray manila envelope labeled "Poetry reading" by Wilmarth. 2) 6 identical photographs of a poetry reading at the opening of "Breath" at the Studio for the First Amendment, left to right: Alfred Corn, J.D. McClatchy, Frederick Morgan (standing), Dana Goia. "Saint" and another sculpture from the Breath series hang on the visible walls. 3) 4 identical photographs of the same group as above from a different angle. 4) Torn piece of a once-sticky label printed with John Alderson's address. 5) Contact sheet of above images. 6) Corresponding negatives.

  • Gallery correspondence and floor plans: Hirschl & Adler Modern, 1983-87

    Gallery correspondence and floor plans: Hirschl & Adler Modern, 1983-87

    38 sheets. Two floor plans of Hirschl & Adler Modern, one with Wilmarth's installation sketches. Various notes and letters to and from Wilmarth, mostly as to gallery business, sales, and thank-yous. Several miscellaneous fragments. Toward the end, a particularly interesting, heated exhange between Wilmarth and Donald McKinney about mishandled mail.

  • The whole soul summed up...

    The whole soul summed up...

  • Saint

    Saint

  • Grey-Blue for Hank Williams, No. 2

    Grey-Blue for Hank Williams, No. 2

  • Insert myself within your story...

    Insert myself within your story...

  • Insert Myself Within Your Story...

    Insert Myself Within Your Story...

  • Title page for

    Title page for "Seven Poems by Stéphane Mallarmé "

  • When Winter on Forgotten Woods Moves Somber

    When Winter on Forgotten Woods Moves Somber

  • Insert Myself Within Your Story

    Insert Myself Within Your Story

  • My old books closed...

    My old books closed...

  • Saint

    Saint

  • Insert Myself Within Your Story

    Insert Myself Within Your Story

  • Photographs of Wilmarth picketing Andre Emmerich Gallery, 9/23/1978

    Photographs of Wilmarth picketing Andre Emmerich Gallery, 9/23/1978

    1) Grey manila envelope labeled in red crayon "Emmerich" and addressed in black marker to Wilmarth at Canal St. Station address. 2) Glassine envelope with 6 strips of negatives of Wilmarth picketing Andre Emmerich Gallery. See also CW2001.1674 for more of same as well as explanation. 3) Two copies of same photograph of Wilmarth picketing Andre Emmerich Gallery.

  • Untitled (2D collage)

    Untitled (2D collage)

  • Letter O

    Letter O

  • My Old Books Closed (Unfinished)

    My Old Books Closed (Unfinished)

  • The Whole Soul Summed Up...

    The Whole Soul Summed Up...

  • Toast

    Toast

  • October Ladders

    October Ladders

  • Studio for the First Amendment, miscellaneous, 1978-1983 and 1986

    Studio for the First Amendment, miscellaneous, 1978-1983 and 1986

    1) Box advertising file folders filled with the following: 2 rubber stamps, one with the Studio for the First Amendment logo, the other a copyright stamp originally made for 1976 but it seems Wilmarth cut the last two numbers off of the year; file with 2 xeroxed pages of handwritten price list for works on view in the fall of 1979, 5 color transparencies of Studio logo, and 1 large cardboard logo still with the remnants of mounting tape on verso; file with 21 invoices, 1 a xerox of a handwritten page, the rest various pink, white, or yellow slips filled out in Wilmarth's hand; file with 2 typed, stapled sheets of cream laid Studio stationery titled THE OUTDOOR SCULPTURE OF CHRISTOPHER WILMARTH: Materials, Maintenance, and Permanence; and file with unused Studio stationery, envelopes, business cards, etc., and a poster for the Gnomon's Parade exhibition. 2) File folder with 2 blue-and-white diamond-shaped metal signs for the Studio, one wrapped in brown paper. 3) Green hanging file folder with xeroxed pages from a visitor's register from 1986 (probably from show at Hirschl & Adler); a slim navy blue notebook with a visitor's register from the inaugural Studio show in 1978; brown guestbook dated November of 1980. 4) Blue cloth-covered visitor's log for May 1982.

  • Artist's documents: Breath exhibition, Studio for the First Amendment, May 1-29, 1982

    Artist's documents: Breath exhibition, Studio for the First Amendment, May 1-29, 1982

    1) 2 black-and-white photographs of an installation view that shows 6 wallpieces. On verso, both are stamped and labeled by Wilmarth in black ink as "Wilmarth / Studio for First Amendment / Breath Exhibition 1982." 2) 4 black-and-white photographs of an installation view of one wall with poems and 2 sculptures. In 2 of the images the windowshade is drawn, in 2 it is lifted. On verso all photos labeled as above, except one which is additionally labeled "New York" and "Photo J. Thomson [sic]" and has a copyright stamp hand-dated 1982. 3) 3 black-and-white photographs of an installation view of 2 walls of pastels and/or paintings. On verso all labeled as above except for the third which also has Jerry L. Thompson's photo credit stamp, and perhaps, in graphite, a date (?), though it reads 6-82, which would be after the show had closed. 4) 1 black-and-white photograph of 6 wallpieces. Labeled on verso with Wilmarth's stamp and hand as above, though it does not include the name of the Studio. This photo also bears Jerry L. Thompson's photo credit stamp and the date (?) 6-82 in graphite. 5) 3 black-and-white photographs of case holding bound book and portfolio of etchings for Mallarme poems. All labeled on verso as above, except the third which has Wilmarth's handwriting in graphite as follows: "Artist-Seven Poems by Stephen Mallarme, translated by Frederick Morgan with Images by Christopher Wilmarth. Bound Book and Portfolio of Etchings 1981-82 (c) Christopher Wilmarth + Frederick Morgan 1982 courtesy the above Photo credit Jerry L Thomson [sic] _NOTE_ WILL BE IN EXHIBITION." 6) 4 black-and-white photographs showing a wall with 7 wallpieces. On verso all labeled with Wilmarth's stamp and handwriting as generally seen above, except for the fourth which bears the same information only in black ink and a copyright stamp hand-dated 1982. 7) 3 black-and-white photographs of installation view with 10 works on paper, a wallpiece, and the case with the book of etchings. All labeled on verso as seen above but for the third which is labeled in Wilmarth's hand including name of photographer (Thompson) and bears Wilmarth's copyight stamp hand-dated 1982. 8) 2 black-and-white photographs of installation view with 6 paintings and 1 wallpiece. Both labeled on verso as seen above, although the second one includes Thompson's name and a copyright stamp hand-dated 1982. 9) 1 sheet of 20 color slides of installation views, some labeled "Installation Shot-Breath" by Wilmarth in black ink and stamped with his copyright. Processed June 1982. 10) 1 dissected copy of the exhibition announcement: notecard with color photograph of Saint and exhibition information, a thin paper insert with opening announcement, and Studio for the First Amendment envelope. 11) 8 copies of above announcement nestled in original envelopes. 12) 8 xeroxed sheets of list of works in order as placed throughout Studio space, many marked as sold.

  • The Whole Soul Summed Up
  • When Winter on Forgotten Woods Moves Somber...
  • The Whole Soul Summed Up...
  • Photograph: Christopher Wilmarth and Larry Huff at work at on
  • Sculpture specification: maquette for sculpture, 1987
  • Sculpture specification: Long Straight Stray, 1976
  • Photograph of Christopher Wilmarth and Larry Huff at the California College of Arts and Crafts working on a
  • Untitled
  • When Winter on forgotten woods moves somber...
  • Sigh
  • Toast
  • Structure (A Back)
  • The Whole Soul Summed Up
  • Sigh
  • Saint
  • Saint
  • Poetry reading at the opening of
  • Gallery correspondence and floor plans: Hirschl & Adler Modern, 1983-87
  • The whole soul summed up...
  • Saint
  • Grey-Blue for Hank Williams, No. 2
  • Insert myself within your story...
  • Insert Myself Within Your Story...
  • Title page for
  • When Winter on Forgotten Woods Moves Somber
  • Insert Myself Within Your Story
  • My old books closed...
  • Saint
  • Insert Myself Within Your Story
  • Photographs of Wilmarth picketing Andre Emmerich Gallery, 9/23/1978
  • Untitled (2D collage)
  • Letter O
  • My Old Books Closed (Unfinished)
  • The Whole Soul Summed Up...
  • Toast
  • October Ladders
  • Studio for the First Amendment, miscellaneous, 1978-1983 and 1986
  • Artist's documents: Breath exhibition, Studio for the First Amendment, May 1-29, 1982
On View Locate on Floor Plan University Study Gallery, Harvard Art Museums

In 1978, sculptor Christopher Wilmarth was asked by poet Frederick Morgan to illustrate his translation of a group of seven poems by the French symbolist Stéphane Mallarmé. The resulting print series, known as Seven poems by Stéphane Mallarmé, is also connected to an elaborate group of works by Wilmarth—charcoal and pastel drawings, etchings, and wall sculptures—each titled after the first line of a Mallarmé poem, known collectively as Breath. This exhibition is selected primarily from these paintings, drawings, sculptures, and prints; it focuses on the way that Wilmarth worked in a variety of media to deal with the themes of Mallarmé’s poems and to shape his project. The exhibition also includes related works on loan from two private collections, providing a sense of how the Mallarmé project continued to inform Wilmarth’s sculpture in the years that followed. While the exhibition largely features works related to or emerging from the Mallarmé project, it also highlights several other sculptures from the Harvard Art Museums collections—including two early, Brancusi-inspired wood sculptures (part of a recent gift of the Susan Wilmarth estate) and the recently acquired October Ladders—that have never previously been exhibited at the museums.

An online resource dedicated to the Christopher Wilmarth archives held by the Harvard Art Museums accompanies the exhibition. The Christopher Wilmarth Special Collection assembles many of the artist’s studio files given to the Fogg Museum over the last 16 years by the artist’s widow, Susan Wilmarth, and later by her estate. The materials in the online repository include technical specification sheets, diagrams, and maquettes for assembling many of the Wilmarth sculptures that can be found in collections worldwide, as well as installation shots of the works. Some of Wilmarth’s musical recordings are also available through the special collection.

Curated by Sarah Kianovsky, Curator of the Collection in the Division of Modern and Contemporary Art, Harvard Art Museums; and Laura Kenner, Ph.D. candidate in Harvard’s Department of History of Art and Architecture.

The exhibition and online special collection received support from the Rosenblatt Fund for Post-War American Art. Modern and contemporary art programs at the Harvard Art Museums are made possible in part by generous support from the Emily Rauh Pulitzer and Joseph Pulitzer, Jr., Fund for Modern and Contemporary Art. The Harvard Art Museums’ presentation of Reverie: Christopher Wilmarth, Before and After Mallarmé honors the memory of Susan Wilmarth.

Related Programming
Information about related events, including a May 19 symposium in memory of Susan Wilmarth and a series of gallery talks, can be found in the museums’ calendar.