Pound Box–A Tableau

George Herms
Pound Box–A Tableau
Mixed media assemblage, 1981
69 1/2 x 46 x 22 inches
Gift of the estate of Dr. John Menkes in his honor
2012.005

California Assemblage artists of the 20th Century typically included words and word fragments in their work along with found objects, closely aligning themselves with literary tradition. The words and objects were to be taken together as a kind of visual poem. Herms’ homage to Ezra Pound, the poet credited with ushering in a modern style stressing clarity, precision, and economy of language, is a testament to how important literary thought was to these artists.

An homage or portrait in objects and words, Pound Box–A Tableau is constructed with a plethora of oblique references to the poet: the crude, wooden scale (a reference to measuring pounds); the book American Engineering, Vol. 1 (a reference to building better systems); and the plumbers wrench (a tool for tightening basic things like language). All allude to Pound’s contribution to literature.

Herms also refers to the most difficult and prominent incident in Pound’s life, indicated by the inclusion of an IBM Orator 10 typewriter ball. Between 1941 and 1943, Pound made now infamous broadcast radio speeches from Rome to the United States on behalf of the Mussolini regime during World War II. After the war, Pound was arrested by the United States for treason, declared insane, and sent to a psychiatric hospital.

As if to sum things up, Herms includes a barely discernible typewritten note, “I don’t remember your name or your face but I couldn’t forget your breadth.” It speaks of Pound’s relegation to the sidelines of history due to his political leanings as well as his lasting influence on the course of literature.