WORD PLAY looks at how six contemporary artists have specifically used and questioned how language functions and how meaning is comprehended. They use language as an actual medium—like charcoal and paint, wood and steel—exploring the paradoxes of language. Sometimes their work is telegraphic; other times almost narrative.
These artists all make us think about language and how we use (and abuse) it, including the acts of speaking, reading and looking; representation and abstraction, and how they cross over. As Smithson later wrote, “A word outside of the mind is a set of ‘dead letters’.” WORD PLAY challenges the viewer to bring life and meaning to letters, punctuation and text.
The art-making techniques range from the traditional to the technological. Fiona Banner and Benjamin Zellmer Bellas often use texts—from full sentences to entire stories. Banner transforms a number of works from a popular culture perspective into fine art. Bellas uses performance, poetry and sculpture in combination to address the experience of understanding.
Mel Bochner is best known for his text-based paintings that are at the intersection of linguistic and visual representation. In contrast, David Moreno’s works on paper symbolically ask, “How are words made?” His work often hides or layers information, developing a visual poetry compelling the viewer to decipher it.
Kay Rosen is an artist with formal linguistic credentials. She works with words and punctuation almost exclusively, testing definitions, challenging visual understanding and, frequently, commenting on social issues using a wry humor. Damon Zucconi uses software programming “languages”—including speech and handwriting synthesizers—to create art that is more-or-less readable.
WORD PLAY is organized by Gregory Linn and Clayton Press, Princeton, New Jersey-based specialists in contemporary art. See the LinnPress website—www.linnpress.com—for a detailed overview of their experiences, expertise and professional services.