Concrete Poetry and Coca-Cola
The concrete poetry movement began in the 1950s as an unlikely combination of Dada anarchy and Madison Avenue production values. It thrived outside the usual art capitals, in Switzerland, Brazil, and Scotland. The Getty Research Institute, which has collected concrete poetry since the 1980s, has just opened its first extended survey, "Concrete Poetry: Words and Sounds in Graphic Space." It's at the Getty Center through July 30, 2017.
|Poems from Caixa Preta (Black Box), Augusto de Campos and Julio Plaza. Getty Research Institute. Courtesy Augusto de Campos / Courtesy Anabela Plaza
Pignatari (1927-2012), was Brazilian, one of the Sao Paolo-based Noigandres group. The poem's title is Coca-Cola's Brazilian slogan of the time, a Portuguese translation of the English "Drink Coca-Cola." Pignatari used Coke's trademark red and white colors and a midcentury typeface to create an anti-advertisement. The usual English translation is:
drink coca cola
drool glue shard
A six-word condensation: drool, not drink, this sugary crap.
Coca-Cola is a first-world beverage made from two of the third world's most habit-forming stimulants. "I'd like to buy the world a Coke" runs another Coke slogan, the one Don Draper dreamed up at Big Sur. The pusher offers the first hit for free.
Coca-Cola already had an overtone of economic imperialism in the Brazil of the 1950s. Pignatari's poem references that, but it would be tone-deaf to read it as a narrow manifesto. "Beba Coca Cola" is political in the sense that Mad magazine was, a frankly sophomoric goof on the grown-up powers that be.
|James Rosenquist, Vestigial Appendage, 1962. Panza Collection, MOCA
|GRI photo mural of Ian Hamilton Finlay's "poetry garden," Little Sparta. Photo by Sani Rebben