Fri. Jun 2nd, 2023

In CAConrad’s poem-rituals, words do not play coy. For the Kansas-born poet, language is less a refuge or flight of fancy than a means of facing pain head-on; theirs is the emphatic and honest bedside manner needed by an ailing planet. “13 Moons: Listen to the Golden Boomerang’s Return,” the artist’s first solo exhibition, is built from two recent collections of concrete poetry. The thirteen poems comprised by 13 Moons, 2014, are hung along the curved end of the gallery, while each of the 4 Antiwar Poems, 2022, appears emblazoned on a large white banner draped from the ceiling. Their forms—redolent of sails, sabers, or droplets—take on the mass and presence of sculpture; they fill the space like bonfire flames.

As part of the exhibition, Conrad delivered a combination of a poetry reading, an artist talk, and an improvised slideshow that guided viewers through a travelogue of America’s grit and grace, surveying the quiet of the desert, friends lost to violence or AIDS, crystals and shamans, carbon-capture machines, killer drones, the imminent recriminalization of abortion at the hands of “witch-burning Christians,” and a crow that once brought Conrad daily gifts in exchange for crackers and peanuts. Throughout, the artist’s words well up like tears of rage, colored by both an aversion toward and a stubborn compassion for that most bruised and twisted of nations.

The performance ended with one of the poems from 13 Moons, addressed to the artist’s trucker boyfriend, a bristly, uncompromising man whose every rendezvous with Conrad takes place in a different town or truck stop along the interstate: “all my friends hate you / you’re like my mean old / Tom cat Thor who / alienated us both / from everyone / a most divisive / cat / but I am loyal.”

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