About the Exhibition
Allen Ruppersberg’s installation The Singing Posters: Poetry Sound Collage Sculpture Book paid tribute to Allen Ginsberg’s iconic poem Howl (1955–1956), a hallmark text of the ’50s Beat generation. In order to reinterpret the piece for contemporary audiences, Ruppersberg transcribed the poem into phonetic spellings and printed the “new” text on approximately 200 vibrantly colored commercial advertising posters installed floor to ceiling on gallery walls.
Using graphic design styles of the period when Howl was published, the posters communicated the “high culture” of poetry via the common language of advertising. The layout of the type was visually chaotic, analogous to the barrage of images conjured up by the poem and to the social climate in which the text was produced.
The installation also included Ruppersberg’s personal scrapbooks, which contained an accumulation of images, newspaper and magazine clippings, and other miscellany that the artist had collected throughout his life, particularly in the ’60s and ’70s.
The Singing Posters: Poetry Sound Collage Sculpture Book was presented in conjunction with the exhibition Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution. Both exhibitions shared the context of the counterculture movements that proliferated in San Francisco in the mid-twentieth century. That city was a nucleus for Beatnik and hippie activity, and was where Ginsberg purportedly began drafting Howl and where it debuted at a reading in 1955. By examining the seminal work of Ginsberg—a prominent American Jewish poet, free thinker, and voice of the Beat generation—Ruppersberg revived the spirit and energy of this era and introduced it to a new audience.
Allen Ruppersberg (b. 1944) is an American conceptual artist whose work includes paintings, prints, photographs, sculptures, installations, and books. Educated at the Chouinard Institute (what is now the California Institute of the Arts), he divides his time between New York and Los Angeles.