Bag Art

Posted inThe Daily Heller
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The Sackner Archive of Visual and Concrete Poetry was founded Ruth and Marvin Sackner in Miami Beach, Florida in 1979, later moving it to Miami, Florida in 2005. Dr. Sachner, a noted pulmonary surgeon, began by collecting Russian Constructivism with his wife, then switched focus to establish a collection of books, critical texts, periodicals, ephemera, prints, drawings, collages, paintings, sculptures, objects, manuscripts, and correspondence dealing with precedent and contemporary, internationally produced, concrete and visual poetry. And quite a exhaustive collection it is too.

The antecedent material had at its starting point, Stephane Mallarme’s poem, “Un Coup de Des” (Cosmopolis, 1897). The historic examples included works with concrete/visual poetic sensibilities from such twentieth century art movements as Italian Futurism, Russian and Eastern European Avant Garde, Dada, Surrealism, Bauhaus, De Stijl, Ultra, Tabu-Dada, Lettrisme, and Ultra-Lettrisme.

On a recent visit, the Sackner’s generously presented me with a few pieces of the letter artist Wally Depew. Here is his Red Bag of Courage, a limited edition reprint of an earlier version. And here too is what the Sackner’s say about collecting his work.

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We began corresponding with Wally Depew (1938-2007) in 1980 when we first came across his limited edition booklets at the Printed Matter Bookshop in New York City and requested that he send us more of the same. In addition to his rubberstamped body of work, Wally, who lived in Pennsylvania, California, New York and Arizona through his lifetime, participated in numerous artistic activities. He edited and published Poetry Newsletter (1964-1966), an avant garde, small press poetry periodical that ran through 12 issues, composed concrete typewriter poetry, contributed poems to small press periodicals, was a book artist, print maker and drama writer. We continued to correspond and purchased his book works until 1993 when we lost mail contact with him. Unfortunately, we never had the opportunity to meet. In late 2007, we received a telephone call from his widow, Linda Bandt Depew, indicating that she wanted to donate Wally’s Archive to ours. After much discussion as to whether his work should be donated to a public institution rather than a private collection such as ours, she insisted that she wanted to donate it solely to us. We received an Archive of material in 35 shipping boxes that contained a number of books and booklets we had purchased previously as well as several unknown to us, small press magazines that he had edited, rubberstamped and wood block prints, photographs along with their negatives, unique artist books, collages, correspondence and manuscripts by Wally and other poets including Hannah Weiner (1928-1997) as well as a trove of books and small press magazines in which he was a reviewer, critic or friend of the author.His response to my question in 1991 about rubberstamping the pages of his books was as follows: “If, for example, I carve wood or plastic and print it from stamp pads, it could be called rubber stamping. But when I use artist’s tube watercolors or acrylic paints, applied to the cuts with a brush, what is that? And when I hand paint rubber stamps and then print them as standard rubber stamps…?”Wally’s personal Archive is still being catalogued but so far it amounts to multiple copies of 18 booklets in an edition of 10 copies, 37 booklets in 49 copies, 1 booklet in 50 copies and 4 booklets in greater than 100 copies, 12 books in 10 copies, 16 books in 49 copies, 1 book object in 50 copies and 16 books in 100 to 200 copies. It also includes five unique artist books, 42 ink drawings, 360 rubberstamped drawings, 3 collages and over 50 rubberstamped or wood block prints. It contains multiple copies of ‘the black box of poems’ (2003) a mini-retrospective of both Linda and Wally Depew’s work that is dedicated to the conceptual artist, Sol LeWitt, in the form of numerous leaflets and booklets that feature conventional poetry, concrete poetry, language art, optical image, transmorfation, conceptual art, and asemic writing. When we finish cataloging the entire Archive, we plan to mount an exhibition featuring his works in a public venue so that his neglected visionary work will become accessible to the art/poetry participating public.

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The Sackners can be seen in “Concrete,” a film, featuring Tom Phillips, Johanna Drucker and Albert DuPont, directed by Sara Sackner, which tells their unique collector’s tale and reveals the verve of the collectors (here).

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For more Steven Heller, check out Citizen Designer: Perspectives on Design Responsibility, one of the many Heller titles available at