Issue Sixteen: TEXT

Words are found everywhere and in everything, abundant in nature, prevalent in art from Joseph Beuys to Adrian Piper to Jean-Michel Basquiat to Sophie Calle, Adam Pendleton, and Bethany Collins, from periods Dadaism to minimalism to pop art and contemporary. Words are often uniquely integrated into painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture, installation, and performance as a conceptual apparatus, a way to voice issues by presenting linguistics as the universal image. 

TEXTS focuses on the profound significance that language brings to the visual landscape; this incredible notion that works can be seen and read simultaneously— begging for viewers to occupy both sides of their brains. Artists use words beyond their typical purpose; whether stitched into fabric as a powerful act of protest or scrawled gestural marks on walls depicting a message that can be erased yet forever remembered/documented. 

Caroline Harris discusses the visual poetry of women contemporary artists such as Astra Papachristodoulou, a poet using complex materials as resistance tools to create evocative surfaces to place words and Briony Hughes uses natural resources “a coil of abandoned fishing rope is strung with bookbinding thread and scraps of paper stamped with translations from Old English and Old Norse.” Elsewhere, Issac Fravashi advocates for Tracey Emin’s cleverness in her typos, believing that her intentional wordplay is a resourceful tool in itself whilst also including the late tragic poet Sylvia Plath’s role as a Confessional poet. By aligning Emin and Plath together, it showcases an earnest relationship that visual artists share with “purist” writers. 

The intimately interwoven relationship between text and textile is placed centre stage in Poets in Vogue, an exhibition that presents the fashion worlds and poetic works of seven women poets at the National Poetry Library in London’s Southbank Centre. Decorating Dissidence catches up with two of its curators – academics Sarah Parker and Sophie Oliver – to find out more about the research and creative processes behind the exhibition.

Multidisciplinary artist and writer Julia Mallory’s hand-stitched anti-hero capes unveil personal ancestry histories, express desires to dismantle stereotypical roles of Black women, and disengage from oppressive systems still set in capitalist America. 

 “Nostalgia doesn’t simply mean missing home; to me, it is a place or time that can no longer go back to,” Xiao Ma’s Home Is a Concept series expresses sentiments between an American home and that of cultural upbringing from native China, images retaining a sweet homage to past in repetitive blocked texts, organic colored seashells piled against an oatmeal background sets the tone for sentimental memory. 

Installation draftswoman Jade Montserrat intentionally fills evocative gallery spaces with poetic intentions, taking a special care in the rendering of each letter; her naked body’s movements immersed in building up charcoal manifestations on walls whilst thinking about women’s labor, creativity, captivity, racial discrimination, and historical violence— the letters themselves become meaningful shapes, pivotal objects outside of merely suggesting a word.

“Love is asking me what happened to the dead rat you found in the attic that morning?”  Inspired by Italian artist Bruno Munari, J.A. Pak’s Brief Love contain pullout notes, photographic transfers, patterned handmade paper, adhered envelopes with surprise correspondence. The book displays an active interest in the sacred art of bookmaking— a handheld container that requests physical interaction and play.  

Graffiti art has always had a place in text history— aerosol writings on subways, trains, and abandoned buildings; artist’s signatures usually sprayed as nicknames— an inspiration for Jenny Holzer’s early work in Maria Seda-Reeder’s thoughts on social resistance art. Cy Twombly— an artist using a minimal color palette to his own graffiti styled, free-scribbles— also enters the conversation as a key influence.

“Did I start writing and mixing words with images in my art, to be heard?” Writer/collage artist Salma Ahmad Caller contextualizes her mixed race heritage among a mind nestled in many realms— science, philosophy, art, writing— and questioning the body’s response to time, memory, and language by presenting photographic assemblages steeped in familial relics and stories. 

TEXTS is a taste of the journey of words traveling through art, how far they have come from diary entries alongside sketches to becoming the main idea, the actual piece to be critiqued and reviewed. Words/writing conceptual entities still retain endless pathways that artists and artist-writers are determined to keep exploring— the emotional, psychological, physical, and tangible effects of language shifting beyond their meanings, often leading the viewer to unexpected places. 

Guest editor Janyce Denise Glasper is an award-winning Dayton, Ohio based multidisciplinary artist, writer, and independent scholar focused on highlighting the historical contributions of Black women visual artists. She obtained her BFA in drawing from the Art Academy of Cincinnati and her post baccalaureate certificate and MFA from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; primarily concentrating in drawing, painting, and writing. Her own text has appeared in Belt Magazine, Lucy Writers Platform, RaceBaitr, Black Youth Project, Wear Our Voice Mag, and other publications. Currently, she is a remote contributing arts writer for Philadelphia based artblog and runs femfilmrogues and Black Women Make Art

Title image credit: Jenny Holzer, ‘Truisms’ (1984) | ‘Potential Counts For Nothing Until Its Realized’ GIF

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