This work is a homage to the 1887 modernist poem Un Coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard (A throw of the dice will never abolish chance), by French poet Stéphane Mallarmé, of which Broodthaers wrote: “Mallarmé is at the source of modern art… . He unwittingly invented modern space.” Mallarmé’s poem proposed to liberate language from conventions of space and typography by stretching sentences across spreads and using multiple typefaces to abstract both form and content. In designing his edition, Broodthaers blocked out the lines of the original work with solid black bars of varying width, dependent on the original type size, turning the original text into an abstract image of the poem (Broodthaers also replaced the word Poème, on the title page, with Image). Mallarmé’s poem was published in three different editions with varying paper types; Broodthaers copied this approach, and all three of his variations are represented in MoMA’s collection: one with translucent paper, one with standard paper, and one on individual aluminum plates.
Gallery label from New to the Print Collection: Matisse to Bourgeois, June 13, 2012–January 7, 2013.