Fahlström was a poet and painter and expressed political concerns using fragments of poetry, newspapers, comic books, and magazines. He studied the history of Surrealism extensively, and the writings of Stéphane Mallarmé, Antonin Artaud, and Henri Michaux were influential sources for his work. Like Mallarmé, Fahlström arranged words in space, transforming them into rhythmic figures; like Artaud and Micheaux he practiced drawing with words as a form of exorcism. Sketch for World Map uses these Surrealist strategies to obsessively map the world. Its multiple sources are not assimilated literally but are assembled, according to artist Mike Kelley, in "a loose cartooning" way. This personal combination of the language of comics with pictorial means has been an important source of inspiration for contemporary artists, including Kelley, whose work is also on view in this exhibition.
Gallery label from Compass in Hand: Selections from The Judith Rothschild Foundation Contemporary Drawings Collection, April 22, 2009–January 4, 2010.