In 1974, Marvin and Ruth Sackner began gathering works of “concrete poetry," poems whose words and typography are arranged to convey meaning graphically. But they didn’t know the genre was called “concrete poetry” until 1979. Coming across Emmett Williams’s Anthology of Concrete Poetry in a book store “was a Eureka moment,” says Marvin, a neurologist by trade. “I exclaimed to Ruth, ‘What we’ve been collecting has a name!’”
In the years since, they would help give a once-languishing art movement a home at the Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry in Miami, an enormous and unparalleled collection of 250,000 works—housed not in a museum, but in a massive duplex overlooking the bay. Now, 300 choice pieces of theirs sit on display at the brand-new Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), whose concrete-poetry exhibit, “A Human Document,” was set to come down in May but has been extended and remains on view until August 2014.
The Sackners have built two other major art collections in the past 30 years. The first was of contemporary constructivist works. The second was of Russian avant garde and early 20th century avant garde movements (books, drawings, and paintings informed by dada, futurism, surrealism and the like). But it was the concrete and visual poetry collection—which includes artist books, assemblings, artist magazines, experimental calligraphy, typewriter art and poetry, and word-image works—that would become the Sackners’ signature achievement.