Text phrases, words and letters abound in contemporary art, ranging widely from direct witty phrases to text that has become illegible in its adaptation. With increased crossover between different fields of art, the craft of editing text in literary arts is a skill and practice that has been incorporated into the visual arts more frequently. Jenny Holzer is an artist who comes to mind in this regard.
However, in this article I am examining the other polarity of text in art. As an artist who regularly uses text in my own art work, I am always interested in discovering the ways in which other artists step beyond the all too prevalent witty-one-liner on the wall into an artistic language that is far more expansive and uniquely cultivated. The artists included here demonstrate the beautiful grey area that emerges between abstract painting, graffiti, constructivist painting and the written word, to name a few. Here text becomes a vehicle for additional forms of communication, used as a foundation to expand upon with the artist’s particular vision or agenda.
Wendy White, Feodor Voronov, Glenn Ligon, Annie Vought, Jose Parla and Jel Martinez are all artists whose work takes text and language and pushes way outside the box. Wendy White’s use of the lines and structure of letters themselves is deconstructed and echoed in lines that emerge within her abstracted and color washed work. In the images of her work shared here, I particularly love the way in which she goes beyond the canvas in architecturally reconstructing the text-like elements along the border.
The house is a shape everyone has some form of relationship with. Whether it symbolizes comfort, global financial crises in housing market, cookie cutter mediocrity or family, the house as a mundane symbol or object has been elevated to captivating experimental art and high art on several occasions. This weekend we share with you a selection of significant works that adapt houses into art objects.
Urs Fischer‘s Untitled (Bread House), constructed of bread, bread crumbs, wood, polyurethane foam, silicone, acrylic paint, screws, tape and rugs leaves every ingredient exposed. Stepping inside this large sculptural work recently at MOCA had the effect of walking inside a decaying fairytale, as the work is naturally allowed to crumble and decompose in exhibition. Stepping over piles of crusts of cinnamon raisin bread amidst dirty rugs and peering up at the bubbled polyeurythane foam that seeps between boards and rows of old bread, the viewer may feel any combination of wonder, amusement and fear- much like Grimms Brothers Fairytales.
An Te Liu‘s Title Deed evolved from the Leona Drive Project in Toronto where a number of vacant tract houses were offered to artists to be reinvented as artistic installations. As this project took place in 2009 in the height of the housing market crash, the artist observed that the simple shape of the existing house represented the 20th century iconic Monopoly board game house pieces. The simple, yet flawless execution of Title Deed situated within a functioning suburban neighborhood carries comical yet heavy implications.
With simple masking tape, photographer Robert Chase Heishman transforms everyday spaces into flat, geometric scenes. This effect creates an illusive new space, redefined by new boundaries. Whether the tapes’ colors are bright or more subdued, the effect is stark. He creates new shapes within the photograph, or uses the tape to create a framed effect for the photograph. If the photographs were stripped of tape, the photographs would be a bit dull. By adding the tape to some of his scenes, Heishman creates the effect of a lost dimension. Because his designs are so thoughtfully shaped, it takes more than a glance at these photographs to recognize that the tape has been placed onto the scene and not the photograph. When he’s not masking his surroundings with tape, Heishman also works with video and sculpture to explore similar themes like peripheral vision, flatness, and digital affect. He lives and works in Chicago. (via from89)
The conceptual installations of artist Ole Ukena have a certain subtle humor. However, the installations don’t seem intentionally funny as much as the surprising innocence of a young insight. Each installation seems to pose a simple question that isn’t easily answered. Appropriately, Ukena is also the founder of a foundation that organizes collaborations between artists and youths worldwide. Ukena says of his process;
“I am not limiting myself to one medium. I simply can’t. It’s a constant adventure, finding new materials in the countries in which I travel, encountering objects or phrases that can be transformed into specific, meaningful pieces. While my work often displays a strong conceptual nature, I am also very drawn to the intuitive.This balancing energy forces me to step out of my mind and just create. These forces are like my left and right hand. My works try to create a map of the human mind, in an attempt to tell a tale about the very nature of it with all its possibilities, limitations, irritations, and hopes.”
Bohyun Yoon has lived in Japan, Korea, and The States. He uses these “diverse social experiences” as a point of reference for his work, which circles around societal restraints and progressive concepts of the body: possible extensions and perils with the advancement of technology/war/culture on a personal and holistic level.
His installation work “Unity” (2009), “Structure of Shadow” (2007), and “Shadow” (2004) casts light on miniature wax body parts which physically dangle aimlessly; however, when illuminated by a light source, these fragmentations create shadows or illusions which illustrate figurative wholeness.
Tethered to our bodies and systems of government, our parts and puppetry, is in essence, our humanness or machinery, or as Yoon explains, what makes us “weak and fragile, spiritless animals under certain rule, certain harsh conditions.” His work also resonates with a sense of devastation felt by veterans returning wounded from battle, physically and spiritually.
By stacking two otherwise banal objects and calling it art, Daniel Eatock‘s sculptures both make us laugh as well as re-view the objects around us as first and foremost formal objects and secondly as things we can use to, say, move a pile of dirt around. Try it! Look at all those little smooth squares your fingers are pushing. Look around you!
In his words ” [...] I propose systems, templates, invitations and opportunities for collaboration, creating social networks where contributers shape the outcome and participate in the building of works. I embrace contradictions, and dilemmas. I like gray areas, oxymorons and the feeling of falling backwards. My favorite colour is the purple found in a soap bubble. I prefer to swap and exchange things rather than use money. I seek alignments, paradoxes, chance circumstance, loops, impossibilities and wit encountered in everyday life. I often change my mind, go full circle, and arrive at the beginning.” – Daniel Eatock
Central Saint Martins MA candidates Anita Silva and Leslie Borg designed an incredibly creative interactive product for Icelandair entitled “_scape”. Inspired by a rock found in Iceland, _scape is a layered “book” containing “sounds, visuals, textures, scents and tastes” which can serve as a reminder of Iceland itself, or just a general internal escape. Intended to evoke lava rock and ice (two strong elements of the Icelandic landscape), the object is earthy-looking, meant to strongly contrast with the sterile environment of an airplane cabin. I’m not sure a flight time long enough to allow me to grow bored of interacting with _scape exists. (via)
I love Hunter Payne. His work takes me back to a simple time without being simple. Out of all the shakey hand intimate portraits that are currently sieging the art world, these creations that float through the crazy artist’s brain are by far the most enjoyable because of their lack of pretense. Hunter’s humble nature and childlike wonder bring questions forth about the necessity for seriousness in art. More after the jump.