Language as Medium
Reception: Friday, December 7th from 5-7pm
One only needs to turn-on a digital device to recognize the importance of language. Each day our society is bombarded with words. We often accept as fact, and without deep consideration, messages transmitted via newspaper, smartphone, computer, or television. One could argue the dissemination of words has never been easier, or more immediate, than it is at present with social media. The prolific circulation of language creates a scenario in which semiotics and semantics become paramount in deciphering message and meaning alike.
Scholars of different stripes—from Umberto Eco to Noam Chomsky—have researched and published about the significance and implications of a written word within the cultural landscape. The details of these theories may differ, but they all take for granted language’s connectedness with mass culture. More than ever, cultural trends are reflected in the ways in which people converse. Items such as technology, political rhetoric, and popular culture all weave their way into colloquial language patterns.
Language As Medium focuses on seven artists who have consistently utilized text as their primary imagery and subject matter. In his prints, Mel Bochner uses well-known phrases or idioms to question how individuals receive and interpret linguistic meaning. The conceptual artist, Peter Downsbrough, creates work that turns conjunctions into iconographic signs that emphasize both written and physical space. By creating a neon work that highlights Donald Rumsfeld’s 2002 quote regarding ‘known known’s, unknown known’s, and known unknowns,” Alicia Eggert calls attention to the ways in which mere locution can alter and manipulate meaning. The text found in Dana Frankfort’s artwork is meant to be an esoteric entry into the language of painting. Rather than being understood as a word or phrase, fonts becomes markers for the ethereal nature of constructing a visual image.
As a pioneer of integrating text and media, Jenny Holzer presents cultural and political messages with subversive undertones. Her work seeks to confront the public and provoke thoughtful reflection on subjects such as gender, power, and consumerism. In her prints and installation work, Kay Rosen merges grammatical and typographical strategies to play with syntax and message. The video included in this exhibition, Blue Monday, delights in small modifications in meaning that are generated by linking systematic color shifts to days of the week. Often thinking of himself of a sculptor rather than a conceptual artist, Lawrence Weiner sees language as a material for construction. His work deftly negotiates aspects of typography such as font size, placement on a surface, and new letter forms to help viewers remember the phrase and its visual impact.
Marc Mitchell / Curator
Lawrence Weiner, Untitled, 2015. Wall work in 4 colors (vinyl). Variable dimensions.
Jenny Holzer, Arno, Blue, 2005. Vertical LED sign (white diodes and stainless steel housing). 77 x 5 ¼ x 3 in.
Mel Bochner, Amazing (Inverse), 2014. Silkscreen with color-shifting ink on Lanaquarelle Satin paper. 68 ½ x 47 in.
Kay Rosen, Blue Monday, 2015. Continuous looping video. 9 min 12 sec
Peter Downsbrough, Place/As, Or, To, If, 1990. Silkscreened box with 5 silkscreened wooden blocks. Box: 10 ¼ x 1 ½ x 15 ¼ in Blocks: 7 x 1 x 1 in.
Dana Frankfort, More Than Words, 2013. Acrylic on linen over panel. 48 x 48 in.
Alicia Eggert, Known, Unknown, 2015. Neon with custom controller. 30 x 90 x 12 in.