Robert Montgomery: THE STARS PULLED DOWN FOR REAL
Dec. 24, 2020 – April 12, 2021 | North Lawn
THE STARS PULLED DOWN FOR REAL (2015) by Robert Montgomery, a poem in LED light, illuminated Oklahoma Contemporary's North Lawn. The work opens with “SQUARES AND SQUARES OF FLAMES” and ends with “ALL THE STARS PULLED DOWN NOW FOR REAL,” referencing Ezra Pound ’s 1913 essay Patria Mia, which celebrates the dazzling lights of New York City. If Pound practically sings a paean to “the most beautiful city” as “our poetry,” Montgomery’s version casts a more elegiac light on the landscape of cities that his billboards have been in dialogue with in different parts of the world for over a decade.
First installed for a commission by ALL RISE in Seattle, Wash., in 2015, the reading of the text and its commentary on the contemporary city is inflected with new meaning in 2020 but retains in its core his faith in the possibility of transcendence — in “REMEMBERING THE MAP UNDER THE FLOOD WATER.” He has referred to his practice of addressing the cityscape as an exercise “of remembering the magic of a city and trying to uncover that sense of the sacred [in] the everyday or a sense of God in the mundane.”1
Part of the inaugural Bright Golden Haze exhibition, Montgomery’s light poem also corresponded with the narratives woven into the installations of Fieldworks: Beyond Measure and the words and phrases that populate the works in the upcoming exhibition Ed Ruscha: OKLA.
Robert Montgomery’s text-based work plies the nexus between conceptual art and poetry. He first began installing his billboards with messages that stood out in a panorama of consumerist ads in Shoreditch, a district in the East End of London, in 2004. Putting a literal spin on concrete poetry, he sees city blocks as “concrete poems” with each billboard as a page. He showed at the Venice Biennale in 2011 and represented the United Kingdom at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, the first biennial exhibition in India, in 2012. His work is in private and public collections in China, Germany, Switzerland, the United States, and the United Kingdom. He lives and works in London.
Robert Montgomery, THE STARS PULLED DOWN FOR REAL, 2015. Public Art Collection of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York, Gift of the Artist, 2020. Photo one by Trayson Conner, photo two by Max Cleary.