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Dom Sylvester Houédard (1924-1992)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
Dom Sylvester Houédard (1924-1992)

Optical Art

Dom Sylvester Houédard (1924-1992)
Optical Art
signed and dated 'dsh 100964' (upper left)
typewriter ink on paper
6 5/8 x 6 5/8in. (17 x 17cm.)
Executed in 1964
Galerie l'Oeil Écoute, Lyon.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Lyon, Galerie l'Oeil Écoute, Bertini, Furnival, P. A. Gette, Kriwet, Houédard et OU, 1965 (illustrated, p. 3).
Special Notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

Lot Essay

Dom Sylvester Houédard was a concrete poet, learned theologian and Benedictine priest. A true avant-garde eccentric, he wrote
extensively on new approaches to art, spirituality and philosophy, studying a wide variety of belief systems and working with counterculture figures such as the poets William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, artists including Gustav Metzger and Yoko Ono, and the composer John Cage. Fascinated with the interplay between the meanings of words and their physical form, he used his Olivetti typewriter to create intricate compositions such as Optical Art (1964). His friend Edwin Morgan coined the word ‘typestract’ to describe these typed abstracts, whose playful textual manipulation aligned Houédard with the concrete poetry movement of the time. Freeing words from traditional constraints to new zones of expression, concrete poetry can be traced to the inventive typography of 1920s Modernism; the present work also echoes the Constructivist abstracts of László Moholy-Nagy, whose futuristic interest in technology and machinery finds an apt analogue in Houédard’s mechanically-printed visual language. Moving from poetry to absolute pictorial abstraction, individual letters are layered and iterated to illegible density; clusters of ‘N’ and ‘e’ can be glimpsed, but the emphasis is on the shapely impact of the letters’ forms, not their meaning. Houédard poses a beautiful and serene inquiry into the relationships between sign and signifier, word and image, with more than a hint of divine mystery.

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