Our session today was led by Hillel Smith, an LA based artist, currently in a show with Toni Dachis at The Tychman Shapiro Gallery that employs text in unusual ways. Our lab theme also built on the use of text, exploring how it adds texture and meaning to artwork. Smith uses text in art as part of the art itself. He raised the question of whether it needs to be legible in art and argued the case that when it is hard to read it forces the viewer to engage with it, to work to understand. Even when we are unable to draw meaning from the words they create texture. When it is illegible or in another language we respond to the rhythm and strokes.
Hillel shared a number of his pieces as well as those by other artists who make use of text. (see presentation) Among some of the projects that he shared was a joint effort with Itamar Palogue that used calligraphic brushstrokes that evoked Hebrew, but were not actually Hebrew.
The work that illustrates each artists' body of work actually melds together text and image often with text morphing into image (Slides 23, 24). The practice of melding text and image has a long history. It often made use of Arabic as illustrated by the Wazir Khan Mosque (slide 25) and is employed in early printed bibles (slide 26). Microcalligraphy has developed out of this tradition. It uses tiny Hebrew letters to form a design that may be representational, geometric or abstract.
Some artists who make use of text in their artwork include Keturah Davis (slide 28) who creates images out of text and Marian Bantjes (slide 32) who hides words within image. Michael Beirut (slide 30) took the approach of deconstruction by taking the Saks Fifth Avenue logo and deconstructing the text into a graphic now used on their shopping bags. While text is the medium, there are many ways that artists have worked with it, distorting, overlapping, repeating and deconstructing represent just a few.
We moved into a brief exercise where we were asked to use text in this manner. You can see some of the efforts below.
For the second part of our session Rosyle Ultan and Sharon Stillman presented a talk on the complementary topic of Wisdom in Word and Image. Rosyle shared text and poetry from the Kabbalah and other sources that she felt evoked wisdom. (See handout, Wisdom in Word and Image) Some thought provoking questions were proposed that examined the role wisdom played in the creative process. The small group discussions were introduced by this wonderful quote from Picasso.