Conceptual art and poetry are intermingled in Poetic Vision: The Art of Paul Forte – Selected Works 1974-2014, which is on display at the URI Main Gallery in the Fine Arts Center.
The exhibit features numerous works by the artist in a variety of mediums, including collage and three dimensional objects. Also a poet, the artist combines materials and text to create what he calls “poetic objects.”
Paul Forte, a Wakefield artist, has been making art since childhood, but he didn’t begin working professionally until the 1970s when he was living in the San Francisco Bay Area, California. While conceptual art was an early influence for him, he does not consider himself a conceptual artist. “Even though I’m referred to here as a conceptual artist, that’s not quite the way it is,” he said.
“There are definitely conceptual elements here but I think of myself as a cognitivist. I make a distinction between conceptual and cognitive,” Forte said.
Forte describes his style as eclectic on a formal level, but provides a more “comprehensive” definition of style.
“I think as a kind of orientation, this notion that you can realize ideas in physical form, that constitutes a kind of style that really connects everything… But if you look at it formalistically, this is a potpourri [of styles].” he said.
Recently, environmental issues have been a prevalent theme in Forte’s work. Ringing Silence deals with the issue of climate change. It depicts the North Pole paired with an alarm bell to symbolize the ticking time bomb that is the melting of the polar ice caps. The term “nest egg” is commonly associated with savings or investments, but Forte puts a spin on the term in his work Nest Egg.
“We always talk about personal nest eggs but what about the planet?,” he said. “The planet’s very fragile in some sense. The Earth is, on the other hand, you could say, pretty resilient, but human civilization’s pressure is pretty intense right now.”
Forte finds inspiration in multiple ways. It either begins with an idea, which he then translates into physical form, or it begins with an object or a situation, which then evokes an idea.
“On the one hand, I’ll find an object or a couple of objects and just the objects themselves will inspire me,” he said. He uses a dressmaker’s mannequin covered in photocopy cut-outs of butterflies to describe the second way by which inspiration comes. “[Mantle] began as an idea, then I was fortunate enough to find the old mannequin and I had a book of butterflies that I photocopied.”
This dance between poetry and art makes for a unique collection of artwork that provokes contemplation. Forte has a studio in Wakefield, Rhode Island, and his exhibit in the URI Main Gallery will be displayed through Friday, October 3.