Artist, theologian, concrete poet, scholar, avant-gardist and Benedictine monk—Dom Sylvester Houédard, or dsh as he was known among his peers, was a man of many talents. The British polymath is best known for his work in the 1960s and 70s, during which time he contributed to the counterculture movement through both his writing and his artistic practice. Houédard created many pioneering pieces of typewriter art—dubbed 'Typestracts'—which would come to be regarded as some of the most important early works of Concrete Poetry.
After his death in 1992, and with most of his archive either in the hands of private collectors or at the John Rylands Library at the University of Manchester, Houédard's work risked slipping off the radar of historians. However, since the turn of the twenty-first century, a range of academics, writers and publishers have set about exploring and celebrating his legacy. Notes from a Cosmic Typewriter: The Life and Work of Dom Sylvester Houédard, edited by Nicola Simpson, was published by Occasional Papers in 2012, and the South London Gallery held a one-day event focused on his life and work that same year.
Solo exhibitions of Houédard's work in recent years have nevertheless been rare, so Richard Saltoun Gallery's exhibition Dom Sylvester Houédard: Typestracts, which opens this Friday, will offer visitors a welcome opportunity to see it in the flesh. Curated by Andrew Hunt, the show will bring together a comprehensive collection of Houédard's typestracts created between 1963 and 1975, accompanied by a smart new monograph published for the occasion by Ridinghouse.