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TEXTURES: The Written Word in Contemporary Art

April 26, 2013

Isn’t a picture enough? This is art we’re talking about here, visual art, the kind of stuff that hangs in art galleries and museums. Why muck up the pictures with words and scribblings? For many artists, the answer to that first question is “No, sometimes a picture is not enough.” For them, written text accompanying images on a canvas or other surface are as much a part of the work as form, shape, line and color. In fact, for certain artists, text is not only a conveyor of message, it is form, shape, line and color. ACA Galleries’ exhibition TEXTURES: The Written Word in Contemporary Art will showcase the work of artists who have incorporated written text as part of their aesthetic, their politics, and even their state of mind. Written text has a long history in art. Whether it was the devotional and laudatory text spread across the walls of ancient Egyptian tombs, the sometimes bawdy text in “oxturn” inscribed into Classical Greek pottery, or Jan Van Eyck ensuring that posterity knew he was the attending portraitist by inscribing “Johannes de Eyck fuit hic” (Jan van Eyck was here) above a mirror’s reflected image of himself in the 1434 painting of the Arnolfini wedding, artists have used text to lure us more deeply into their created moment. In our own time, written text, in visual art or simply on a page of paper, must also confront the challenge posed by the ubiquitous fonts of the computer. To paraphrase the poet Dylan Thomas, it is no longer “The hand that signed the paper” but the hand that taps a keyboard. Thus, in visual terms at any rate, the hand that still physically creates or applies text retains a significant human power. In the courageous or adventurous minds and masterful hands of artists such as Romare Bearden, Robert Cole- scott, Grace Hartigan, Elaine de Kooning, Aminah Robinson, Faith Ringgold and Flo Oy Wong, hand-applied text expresses that human power. In their work, written text is not only part of the formalities of composition, line, col