Klaus Peter Dencker belongs to the great tradition of visual poets
whose approach includes an encyclopedic dimension. Such is the case
with Ian Hamilton Finlay and Tom Phillips, to mention two members of the
tradition perhaps more familiar to English speaking readers. A simple
example of the encyclopedic approach is Dencker's ongoing catalogues
of visual poets.
But more important in the context of this site is Dencker's encyclopedic
approach as worked out in his visual poetry. The graphic elements in
his poems recapitulate not only the iconography of Europe for several
hundred years, but also in the process recapitulate the range of
techniques used by artists and designers of all sorts. One of the great
satisfactions for me in his work comes from the interplay of techniques
collaged together. A simple aspect of this appears in different types of
shading in the images, ranging from the cross-hatching, layering, and
feathering of woodcuts and stone lithographs, to the gradations produced
by photographic techniques for offset and rotogravure printing, to the
gradations introduced by airbrushes and now by computer programs. This
wonderful confluence of icons and graphic techniques finds a match in
Dencker's approach to letters. A page of Dencker's poetry will probably
include at least half a dozen type faces, and it seems an interesting
bit of serendipity that living in Germany provides Dencker with Fractur
type faces as well as Roman and sans serif faces. Just as important is
Dencker's hand lettering, which adds a great deal to the interplay of
letter forms in his poems.
Dencker often divides a page into zones, each assigned a contrasting
subject - one zone, for instance, may involve work and another play.
Both graphically and semantically, the major elements in a page function
like the clauses in a sentence, and the pages in a section work much
like a paragraph. Thus the phrases and sentences in his work not only
carry their own significance, but each contributes to a larger lingusitic
The first work in this section is a survey of Dencker's "Wort Koepfe,"
presented complete in reduced format. From the survey a reader can get
a sense of Dencker's use of iconography and its interplay with letters.
The first part of the work also appears in enlarged format so that the
texts are clearly legible. [Click on the image for enlargement.]
Perhaps as bandwidth widens and load time speeds up, we will include
large versions of the complete work. For now, this presentation seems
to provide a good introduction and survey to the work itself and to
Klaus Peter Dencker.