David Trend’s “Letters and Characters,” a review of the exhibition Letterism and Hypergraphics: The Unknown Avant-Garde, 1945–1985 at New York City’s Franklin Furnace late in 1985, was my introduction to the post–World War II French avant-garde movement Lettrisme and to its leading figures.1 For a brief span of years in the mid-1940s and early ’50s, Lettrism created a stir with provocations and scandals such as the interruption of a reading of the Dadaist and Surrealist poet Tristan Tzara’s writings to announce the death of previous avant-gardes and the new movement’s advent as the only living one. The Lettrists appealed to Parisian youths to “kick the asses of Gide, and likewise Cocteau, Aragon, Pierre Seghers or Claudel”2 and provoked howls of outrage with their screening of Isidore Isou’s film Traité de bave et de l’eternité (Treatise on Drool and Eternity, 1951, consisting mostly of voiceovers and sound poetry heard...

You do not currently have access to this content.