Jim Goldberg’s Powerful Series “Rich & Poor” Reveals The Dichotomy Between The Affluent And Destitute

USA. San Francisco, California. 1977. "My life is personal, but I will tell you one thing I'm too fat."

USA. San Francisco, California. 1977. “My life is personal, but I will tell you one thing I’m too fat.”

USA. San Francisco. 1981. Untitled. Goldstines. "My wife is acceptable. Our relationship is satisfactory." Edgar G "Edgar looks splendid here. His power and strength of character come through. He is a very private person who is not demonstrative of his affection; that has never made me unhappy. I accept him as he is. We are totally devoted to each other. Dear Jim: May you be as lucky in marriage!" Regina Goldstine

USA. San Francisco. 1981. Untitled. Goldstines.
“My wife is acceptable. Our relationship is satisfactory.” Edgar G
“Edgar looks splendid here. His power and strength of character come through. He is a very private person who is not demonstrative of his affection; that has never made me unhappy. I accept him as he is. We are totally devoted to each other.
Dear Jim: May you be as lucky in marriage!” Regina Goldstine

USA. San Francisco. 1977. "I love the picture. I am a homosexual. May be if I send one of the pictures you gave me, Jim, to my nephew he will understand how hard his uncle is struggling."

USA. San Francisco. 1977. “I love the picture. I am a homosexual. May be if I send one of the pictures you gave me, Jim, to my nephew he will understand how hard his uncle is struggling.”

From 1977 through 1985, Photographer Jim Goldberg took documentary-style pictures of transients in the Mission District and well-off San Franciscans in their homes and had the subjects write on their portraits. The combination of text and image is still incredibly intimate, even in this age of Instagram and Facebook. The dichotomy between the affluent and the destitute is obvious, yet the universality of the emotions the writers share is striking: pain, loneliness, disappointment, joy, security, contentment.

“I think my outrage about the desperation of the poor — and the dissatisfaction of the rich — stemmed in part from my belief that they represented a derogation from that path, a veering off course that had to be rooted out and documented.”

The combination of image and text is what makes this series so arresting and raw, but at the time of its initial publication in 1985 it was a radical decision, derided in a New York Times review as “a sad lack of trust on Mr. Goldberg’s part in both the power of his photographs to speak for themselves and in his viewers to understand them without comment.” Contemporary artists such as Brandon Stanton from Humans of New York, have taken this format and breathed new life into it through its immediate dissemination on the Internet.

Out of print since 1985, Jim Goldberg’s Rich and Poor has been completely re-designed and expanded by the artist for Steidl. Available for the first time in hardcover, Rich and Poor builds upon the classic combination of photographs and handwriting and adds a surplus of vintage material and contemporary photographs that have never been published or exhibited. (Source)

What comes across in these images is the shocking discrepancy of material goods and environments. The writings expose an expanded truth, though. There is obvious inequality in education and writing ability, leading to the impression that the poor suffer more than the rich. And that may be true in some ways — lack of opportunities, healthcare, and hope are all devastating. Pain is pain, though, and suffering is universal, as is love and gratitude. These portraits—touching, tender, hopeless, and sad—speak to our commonalities, as relevant in 2014 as in 1985.

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Wim Delvoye’s Photographs Give Mundane Messages Monumental Exposure

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In 2000, Belgian multimedia artist Wim Delvoye composed a series of photographs which appear to capture text and note style messages etched on the side of mountain faces. Known for his quirky sculptural style, like his elaborately carved tires, Delvoye manipulated these photographs in order to juxtapose the mundanity of the displayed messages with the sublime, natural beauty of the world’s structures. With messages like “RUDE BUT CUTE 18 YEAR OLD BABE 018 83 87 480″ and “HONEY, DON’T FORGET TO TAKE OUT THE GARBAGE. NINA,” Delvoye cleverly elevates the status of these banal declarations to a monumental scale. In Delvoye’s images, absurdities are reinforced while the overall importance of the messages – because of their ubiquity – is not entirely dismissed. Delvoye’s aesthetic is one of recontextualization and deconstruction – even the structure of website is a testament to his implementation well-known imagery in order to create an accessible and familiar user experience. (via public delivery)

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Words Leap Off The Page In 3D Calligraphy Art By Tolga Girgin

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Considerably ancient art form of calligraphy is brought to new dimensions by Tolga Girgin, a Turkish electrical engineer by trade and graphic designer by heart. His series of 3D calligraphic artworks witness how a little bit of imagination and skill can breathe life to a slowly disappearing craft.

Looking at Girgin’s graceful letters and strokes it seems like they are going to leap off the page and float into thin air. The eye-catching effect is achieved by combining skillful shading and perspective. Bright colors also do justice for Girgin’s works. His letterforms look more like paper cut-outs than two-dimensional drawings.

Girgin also practices “calligraffiti” which blends the properties of calligraphic style with modern day graffiti: the art of writing meets the art of getting your (pseudo) name up in an urban environment. Calligraffiti borrows inspiration from ancient lettering styles: Japanese ancient brush characters, Arabic pictorial scripts, medieval books and quill writing. The new form of art was originally named and pioneered by Dutch artist Niels Shoe Meulman. (via Colossal)

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Michelle Hamer Hand-Stitches Pixelated Versions Of Textual Urban Landscapes

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Michelle Hamer hand-stitches pixelated versions of photographs she’s taken of urban spaces, mainly those occupied by text found in advertising, signage, or graffiti. She stitches her images into perforated plastic, transforming flat, static images of everyday public urban life into tactile needlepoints that recall private and domestic spaces.

Hamer explains,

“I see my work as a type of socio-historic documentation. The images depicted are in between moments that we often take for granted. The obviously slow process allows viewers to become more conscious of these moments which are captured within an instant and consider the difference between the manual and the digital. The in-between spaces (on/off ramps of freeways etc.) where signage can often be found is both necessary for our infrastructure, but also generally not noticed. Similarly, much of the text, advertising signage, streetscapes are so familiar we can fail to focus/really see it, but it’s often reflective of our broader social ambitions, aspirations and edicts.”

(via this isn’t happiness)

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Wendy White And Five Other Artists Deconstruct Text In Paintings

Wendy White

Wendy White

Feodor Vornov

Feodor Vornov

Glenn Ligon

Glenn Ligon

Jose Parla

Jose Parla

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.

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Playful Penguin Paperback Paintings

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With funny fake titles that satirize the real thing, Harland Miller paints a colorful collection of paperbacks which function as a shrine for predictable literary personalities from Waugh to Hemingway . . . and he doesn’t stop there. He also gets personal, implicating his own self-titles into the mix, adding a whole other autobiographical subtext that is both playfully light and familiarly bold.

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Robert Montgomery’s Conceptual And Poetic Public Art

Robert Montgomery - Public Art Robert Montgomery - Public Art
Robert Montgomery - Public Art

Jean Cocteau once said,”a poet doesn’t invent, he listens.”

The pieces built by self-proclaimed “melancholic post-situationist” artist Robert Montgomery, likewise, work as interesting dreamy receivers or lightning rods, absorbing bursts of humanity’s collective subconscious in relation to varying environments.

Translating frequencies and teetering between genres, Montgomery, in Interview Magazine asserts, “Obviously my own work comes from a conceptual art tradition, but I love the graffiti artists, and I feel spiritually closer to them than to most contemporary art; they make the city a free space of diverse voices and we shouldn’t get all cynical about them just because Banksy made some money.”

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Illustrating With Words: Luke Lucas’ Typography

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You may have already seen Luke Lucas’ typography work, but weren’t aware of it; he’s created designs for companies like Target, Nestlé, The New York Times, and Barnes & Noble. He’s also done work for exhibitions and creates his own fonts. Some of the more humorous and elaborate text designs are reminiscent of Wayne White’s word paintings. Of his work, Lucas writes, “I love that the same word, passage or even letter can be treated in bunch of different ways and embody entirely different meanings… That and through subtleties like a slight shift in line weight, the elongation of a tail or the arc you use, a letter can go from contemporary to traditional or happy to sad in a single stroke…”

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