From the Archive: Michael Morris ‘City Deluxe’ portfolio (CAROUSEL 34)
Certainly one of Canada’s most recognized artists, Michael Morris first came to prominence in the 1960s as a leading member of Vancouver’s burgeoning avant-garde. Inspired in part by the ideals of Fluxus and Pop Art, he became associated with a generation of artists who consciously rejected the national lyrical landscape tradition that had dominated the region’s art making, opting instead to work in a fully international idiom. As a creator, Morris has worked in a diversity of media throughout his active career, including painting, printmaking, photography, video, performance, correspondence art and networking.
The City Deluxe print portfolio, a series of etchings recently published by Kardosh Projects, is based on an example of Morris’ late 1960s engagement with Concrete Poetry.
The original concrete poems, created in 1968, were made with a combination of India ink and Letraset letter transfer techniques. They were titled “Letter Drawings”, in reference to his series of abstract, large scale “Letter Paintings” made during the same period. Some of the designs reflect Morris’ strong interest in the legacy of Art Deco, while others show the influence of choreographer Busby Berkeley’s radial geometric patterns.
Originally intended to be part of an unbound book entitled The Problem of Nothing that would include Morris’ photographs, collages and other “unclassifiable things”, the highly graphic images resurfaced for the first time in more than four decades as part of an exhibition around Morris’ work that was held at the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery at the University of British Columbia.
Now re-imagined as a series of ten 30” x 22” etchings, each in an edition of 25, the City Deluxe project offers contemporary viewers a chance to experience these highly geometricized, mono-chromatic typographical images — it’s a rare glimpse at an historically significant, little-known body of early Canadian Concrete.