exhibition archive

Ken Cox: Poetry Machines

29 April 2015 – 5 June 2015

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Download Press Release as PDF


Private view: 28 April 2015 6:00–8.30pm


CHELSEA space is pleased to announce Ken Cox: Poetry Machines as the second exhibition in our spring programme. A highly influential sculptor of the British concrete poetry movement, Ken Cox was a creator of kinetically powered poetry machines that made words move in space as material objects. Cox’s career was cut tragically short in November 1968 when he was fatally injured in a car accident, just months after his first solo show at the Lisson Gallery. This is the first time his works have been shown in London since then, re-asserting Cox as a significant figure in the concrete poetry movement.

The exhibition reactivates works such as Seasons Clock (1965), the hanging multiple, Suncycle (1968), The Three Graces (1966 -68) (Latin Version) and one of the five Elemental Balloon Poems (1967). These works explore the wide range of formal possibilities of the material of language within the spatial and kinetic dimensions of art. Here letters do not correspond to semiotic language, but instead show a curiously textual approach to sculpture, in which words are not so much read as felt. In a review from July 1968, Guy Brett wrote of the Elemental Balloon Poems:

‘One room is entirely filled by large, soft coloured balloons. They are revolving on stands which keep them full of air at a low pressure and light them up inside. The orange Balloon is ringed at its centre by the word “earth” printed without gaps so it spells “heart” as the balloon circles. The green one has ocean bobbing up and down just below the center and so on. These objects dispense with descriptive words, and try to intensify a single word by linking it to an easily grasped experience of space and interval’

Also exhibited is Shadow Box (1965), Cox’s first poetry machine initially shown at the OXPO 2nd International Exhibition of Experimental Poetry, Oxford in 1965. Thrown into the river by Oxford students protesting the farcical nature of the exhibition, the work has been revived and will feature alongside other rarely seen drawings and ephemera. Also included is documentation relating to the 30ft high floating version of The Three Graces (Love, Beauty, Passion) (1967). Made for the Concrete Poetry Exhibition, Brighton Festival, it was destroyed in a storm after being at sea for 10 days.

Kenelm (Ken) Cox studied at Bristol Art College and later at Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts. A native of Gloucestershire, Cox returned in 1962 to Kingscote and began teaching at the Gloucester College of Art in 1964. During this time Cox became an early member of the GLOucestershire groUP or GLOUP – ‘Glo’ster Gro’up of Concrete and Kinetic Poets’. The members of GLOUP comprised of the artists and poets John Furnival, Ken Cox, Dom Sylvester Houédard, Charles Verey and Thomas A Clark. It was from this fertile ground that Cox developed his very particular orientation in concrete poetry.

Ken Cox was included in various significant exhibitions of concrete poetry and experimental art, including OXPO 2nd International Exhibition of Experimental Poetry, St. Catherine’s College, Oxford (1965), Between Poetry and Painting curated by Jasia Reichardt at the ICA (1965), Concrete Poetry Exhibition, Brighton Festival (1967) and the groundbreaking Cybernetic Serendipity, also curated by Jasia Reichardt at the ICA (1968).

Ken Cox: Poetry Machines has been curated by the concrete poetry specialist William Allen and CHELSEA space, with assistance from the Cox Estate.


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As with each exhibition at CHELSEA space, a new illustrated publication will accompany the show.

Press Information
For further information, images or to discuss interviews please contact:
Karen Di Franco or Sinead Cullen at CHELSEA space
via email info@chelseaspace.org or tel: 020 7514 6983

Notes to Editors
Images and further information are available upon request
About: CHELSEA space is a public exhibiting space, sited on the Millbank campus of Chelsea College of Arts, where invited art and design professionals are encouraged to work on experimental curatorial projects. See: www.chelseaspace.org
• In copy please refer to CHELSEA space and not ‘The Chelsea space.’
Gallery opening times: Wednesday-Friday 11am-5pm and by appointment.
Private view: Tuesday 28 April 2015, 6-8.30pm
Admission: FREE

Chelsea College of Arts is one of the world’s leading art and design institutions. Located at Millbank, next door to Tate Britain, Chelsea specialises in Fine Art, Graphic Design and Interior and Textiles Design. Since its origins in the 19th century, the College has produced many of the greatest names in the arts, including: Quentin Blake (illustrator and author) Ralph Fiennes (film and stage actor), AnishKapoor (sculptor), Steve McQueen, (artist), Chris Ofili (artist), Alan Rickman (film and stage actor), Alexei Sayle (comedian) and Gavin Turk (sculptor).

Operating at the heart of the world’s creative capital, University of the Arts London is a vibrant international centre for innovative teaching and research in arts, design, fashion, communication and the performing arts. The University is made up of six Colleges: Camberwell College of Arts, Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design, Chelsea College of Art and Design, London College of Communication, London College of Fashion and Wimbledon College of Art. Renowned names in the cultural and creative sectors produced by the University include 12 Turner prize winners and over half of all nominees, 10 out of 17 fashion designers named British Designer of the Year, more than half of the designers showcased in London Fashion Week and 12 out of 30 winners of the Jerwood Photography Award.




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Ken Cox: Poetry Machines

Ken Cox with Suncycle, 1968,
c.Lisson Gallery