Born to Concrete

6 July – 6 October 2013

Sweeney Reed (1945–1979)
Rose I 1977
embossed etching, edition 7/10
Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne
Gift of Pamela, Mishka and Danila McIntosh 1990
Estate of Sweeney Reed

This exhibition examines the emergence of Concrete Poetry in Australia in the mid-1960s and its subsequent developments. Born to Concrete presents works from Heide Museum of Modern Art’s extensive collection of Concrete Poetry. Augmenting this is a group of works from The University of Queensland Art Collection, featuring works created in the 1970s through to the present day.

Concrete Poetry is a cross-pollination between art and literature that takes many forms, including printmaking, typewriter text, Letraset, sculpture, found objects, and more. Arising in the 1950s in separate initiatives by Swiss and Brazilian writers, it soon became an international movement, extending out of the literary sphere and into the art world. Treating the poem as an object, artists combined language and visual imagery in the spirit of earlier avant-garde movements – Cubism, Dada, Futurism, Surrealism and Fluxus among them – each of which used language in experimental ways.

A focus of the exhibition is the work of Sweeney Reed, which is presented alongside that of his contemporaries, including Alan Riddell, Alex Selenitsch and key international figure Ian Hamilton Finlay. Taking its title from the first Australian journal dedicated solely to Concrete Poetry, Born to Concrete also features examples of the vibrant local publishing initiatives of artists and poets who created new avenues for the presentation of Concrete Poetry. Recent works by artists such as Vernon Ah Kee, Eugene Carchesio, Gordon Hookey and Grant Stevens are included.

An earlier version of this exhibition, titled Born to Concrete: The Heide Collection, was presented at the Heide Museum of Modern Art in 2011. The exhibition in its present form is a collaborative project with The University of Queensland Art Museum.

Katarina Paseta and Linda Short (Heide Museum of Modern Art)
Gordon Craig and Michele Helmrich (UQ Art Museum)


Friday 5 July 6.15 for 6.30 pm
To be opened by
Jason Smith
Director / Chief Executive Officer
Heide Museum of Modern Art


Public Programs

Friday 5 July 5.00 – 6.00 pm
Discover more about the exhibition with artist Alex Selenitsch and curators Katarina Paseta and Michele Helmrich.

Visual Poetry Seminar: Intersections of image + word
Friday 6 September 2.00 pm – 4.30 pm 
Saturday 7 September 9.30 am – 2.00 pm
In association with the Born to Concrete exhibition, join us for a program of lectures, talks and performances that explore the creative space of art, language and poetry and celebrate the life and work of Nicholas Zurbrugg. Speakers include Prof Wayne Hudson, A/Prof Rex Butler, Dr Bronwyn Lea and Fiona Scotney.


Exhibition organised by Heide Museum of Modern Art with The University of Queensland