From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Lettrism is a French avant-garde movement, established in Paris in the mid-1940s by Romanian immigrant Isidore Isou. In a body of work totalling hundreds of volumes, Isou and the Lettrists have applied their theories to all areas of art and culture, most notably in poetry, film, painting and political theory. The movement has its theoretical roots in Dada and Surrealism. Isou viewed his fellow countryman, Tristan Tzara, as the greatest creator and rightful leader of the Dada movement, and dismissed most of the others as plagiarists and falsifiers. Among the Surrealists, André Breton was a significant influence, but Isou was dissatisfied by what he saw as the stagnation and theoretical bankruptcy of the movement as it stood in the 1940s.
In French, the movement is called Lettrisme, from the French word for letter, arising from the fact that many of their early works centred around letters and other visual or spoken symbols. The Lettristes themselves prefer the spelling 'Letterism' for the Anglicised term, and this is the form that is used on those rare occasions when they produce or supervise English translations of their writings: however, 'Lettrism' is at least as common in English usage. The term, having been the original name that was first given to the group, has lingered as a blanket term to cover all of their activities, even as many of these have moved away from any connection to letters. But other names have also been introduced, either for the group as a whole or for its activities in specific domains, such as 'the Isouian movement', 'youth uprising', 'hypergraphics', 'creatics', 'infinitesimal art' and 'excoördism'.
- Isidore Isou (Jan 29, 1925–July 28, 2007).
- Gabriel Pomerand (1926–1972), member from 1945.
- Maurice Lemaître (1926–), member since 1950, and still actively pursuing his own approach to Letterism, although somewhat apart from the main group since the early 1990s.
- Roland Sabatier (1942–), member since 1963.
- Micheline Hachette (1938-1993), member since 1964.
- Alain Satié (1944–), member since 1964.
- Gérard-Phillipe Broutin (1948-), member since 1968.
- Anne-Catherine Caron (1955-), member since 1972.
- François Dufrène (1930–1982), member from 1947 to 1964. Split to form Ultra-letterism and the Second Letterist International.
- Guy Debord (1931–1994), member from 1951 to 1952. Split to form Letterist International.
- Gil J. Wolman (1929–1995), member from 1950 to 1952. Split to form Letterist International, but then returned to occasional participation with Isouian group from 1957 to 1964, before splitting again to form the Second Letterist International.