As an artist I have always been curious about art that uses language – words, letters, collage with written/printed material, etc. Why art about language? Language, spoken and especially written language, defines us as homo sapiens, a species with the ability to know, think, understand and communicate both contemporarily and in the continuum of time, past and future, through writing. Further, for me language in art is a way of bridging the difference in the way we experience our being – the difference between the visual experience of looking/seeing and the mental experience of thinking in written and spoken language.
Over the next two years many of the artists in the New England Wax group will be participating in our “WORD project” in which members will be including language as an element in their encaustic work. Regarding this project I will be writing a series of reviews of exhibitions in which language in art is used. The first is a review of “con(TEXT)” at the Sharon Arts Center in Peterborough, New Hampshire. The second will be “Christopher Wool” at the Guggenheim Museum, New York and a third, which I will be writing about in May 2014, is a show with the conceptual artist, Mel Bochner, at the Jewish Museum of New York. The first review is to follow here.
Sharon Arts Center, Peterborough, NH,
This text-as-art show was wonderfully fun, curated by Tim Donovan of New Hampshire and New York’s Launch F18 Gallery and located at a hip gallery in the Sharon Arts Center, Peterborough, NH. First of all the front window announced in a big bold sign, Help Wanted. I didn’t get it, wondering what’s up with that. Then after smiling my way through the show, I realized what the “sign” in the front window was another work of art in the show, another smile when I got it.
The first work that caught my eye is this Oh (my guess at the title) a collage by Rachel Perry Welty. Orgasm may be the context here – maybe about that restaurant scene in that movie with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks.
The last piece that caught my eye was Money Creates Taste by Jenny Holzer. Nothing like a pun on the silver spoon motif! So clever – bravo!
So often group shows lack any sort of continuity of style. Here the glue that held it all together was figuring out how language worked as the subject and/or content of each piece. I liked engaging this way, quite the challenge in some cases, getting that light bulb to turn on! Here’s how the center’s web site describes this con(TEXT):
“Whether it is repurposing found letters, bombastic political statements, documenting intimate details or elusively abstracting a phrase, text incorporated within art offers a profound purpose by both redefining our perception of what language can be and what it can do. Often, by manipulating its context, text is freed to become a vehicle that allows us to take into consideration what was previously concluded.”