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This report is taken from PN Review 215, Volume 40 Number 3, January - February 2014.

Based on a True Story Mark Dow
John Ashbery Collects: Poet Among Things, Loretta Howard Gallery, New York, October-November 2013


A dozen empty picture frames of various sizes leaning against a wall; trompe-l'oeil wallpaper of floor-to-ceiling shelves of leather-bound books; inky, colour-saturated reproductions of old horror-movie posters in French: these are things I saw through store windows on Ninth Avenue after leaving John Ashbery Collects: Poet Among Things at the Loretta Howard Gallery in Manhattan. Because of the show, they seemed more real - not authentic or convincing, but real.
  
In Rudy Burkhardt's 1989 short film Ostensibly (released as part of a DVD set last year) Ashbery reads his poem of the same name. 'A perverse order has been laid / There at the joint where the year branches / Into artifice one way, into a votive / Lassitude the other way, but that is stalled: / An old discolored snapshot / That soon fades away.' Several minutes later, as Burkhardt's images and Alvin Curran's music continue, we hear the poem again, this time read by a woman.
  
By the time I got home, most of the things in the show had faded from my mind's eye, but there was a resonant and pleasing afterimage: the 'black-and-white' cartoon-realist wall drawings by Matthew Thurber. I was afraid I hadn't paid close enough attention to them; apparently they didn't need me to. Thurber writes on his website: 'I made large scale installation drawings of Ashbery's upstate home for this show. Wallpaper, banisters, wainscoting and crown moulding!!!' In an email, he elaborated: 'I used grey latex house paint… I made sketches ...


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