Luxembourg & Dayan announces Word by Word, a survey exhibition of artworks from the ’60s to today that feature text as image and present language as an artistic medium. Curated by Francesco Bonami, the exhibition draws together works by Vito Acconci, Carl Andre, John Baldesarri, Joseph Beuys, Alighiero Boetti, Will Boone, Jenny Holzer, Marine Hugonnier, ,Joseph Kosuth, Jannis Kounellis, Barbara Kruger, Glenn Ligon, Bruce Nauman, On Kawara, Richard Prince, Ed Ruscha, Frances Stark, Lawrence Weiner and Christopher Wool among others, to present a short history of pictorial language.
Text has played a crucial part in the developments of twentieth century art, from the collaged inclusions of newspapers in Cubist paintings to René Magritte’s lessons in the opacity of language, Marcel Duchamp’s anti-retinal explorations of art’s frontiers and Pop Art’s appropriation of advertisement slogans and comic strip. The history of words in art is also in part the history of Conceptualism, reaching an apogee in the dematerialised work of the late ’60s when language supplanted images; yet the role of words in art has always been ambiguous, oscillating between making the viewer into a reader and vice versa. The rub of semantics and aesthetics has given rise to a visual poetics that thrives in the space between meaning and making that the exhibition seeks to celebrate in its diversity, involving the viewer in a conversation across time conducted through the silent cacophony of reverberating words.
From the demonstrations of Beuys’s iconic chalked blackboards; to the inscriptions of Kawara’s Today series, where time itself assumes a visual effect; to the text landscapes of Andre, in which words become modular units carrying both pattern and poem; to Kosuth’s manifestations of art as “itself philosophy made concrete”; to Kruger’s commanding conjunction of cut up phrases and images; to Prince’s verbal jokes and visual puns; to the urban nihilism evinced in the semantic abstractions of Wool’s “classic” shouts; to the compressed and fraying words of Will Boone, Word by Word will explore painting converged into poetry and poetry into painting, and the myriad complexities that lie in between.