View the full calendar of the Reykjavík Arts Festival 2013.
Dan Bischoff for the Star Ledger announces Art=Text=Art at the Zimmerli. He highlights the event “Making Sense of What We Sense with Rita Leduc,” an interactive drawing installation which will be created by visitors at the museum on October 3rd from 7 to 8:45 p.m.
Click here to read the article.
The 48 American artists in “Art=Text=Art” include Trisha Brown, Dan Flavin, Jasper Johns, Sol LeWitt, Ed Ruscha, Richard Serra, Cy Twombly, and Lawrence Weiner, among others. Works range from a spare poem typed by Carl Andre onto an ordinary 8½-by-11-inch piece of paper in 1960 to a large-scale landscape design that Alice Aycock created in 1986 — which on closer scrutiny reveals itself to be a fanciful topiary labyrinth using ancient andmodern letterforms of languages ranging from Arabic to Sanskrit.
John Priestley of Art Papers has written a very thoughtful review of Art=Text=Art for the November/December 2011 issue of the magazine. The full article is available only in the print edition, but here’s a taste:
The fact that Art=Text=Art: Works by Contemporary Artists remains necessary and possible as an exhibition title…suggests that the poststructuralists and conceptual artists have not yet inscribed into the collective imagination the notion that a text is anything we might regard as semiotic, and that art encompasses all manner of human activity. “Text” still means “words on a page” and “art” still means “visual art.” Like its title, this thoughtful exhibition both challenges and reinscribes the distinction.
We’re very pleased to add video and a transcription of a conversation between Wynn Kramarsky and Elizabeth Schlatter at the opening event for Art=Text=Art on September 1, 2011.
Watch the full video below, and visit Interview for an edited transcript.
Artist and writer Joan Waltemath gave Art=Text=Art a great review in The Brooklyn Rail‘s October issue!
Curator Elizabeth Schlatter makes a point of not limiting her definition of text in art to works with letters in them, but rather expands it to include systemic, programmatic, and haptic concerns…
Read the whole article here or in the print edition of the Rail’s October 2011 issue!
Family Arts Day at the University of Richmond Museums was a great success! For more photos, please visit the UR Facebook album.
by Vaughn Whitney Garland
Conventional definitions of digital media posit the ever-expanding interconnectivity between people as the crowning achievement of technology.1 These same definitions often celebrate the Internet as the place where anyone—at any time—can communicate with everyone else. Not only does the Internet enable access to the world in real time, but it also facilitates and improves participation and communication among users. Many of the outspoken theorists who have been instrumental in defining the field of new media make a clear distinction between digital and traditional media—separating the world along technological lines. According to this line of thought, new media began with the development of computers and with the appearance of code, database structures, and online user collaboration.2 This argument suggests that new media is defined fundamentally by interconnectivity and access–to information and to other users. Yet I counter not only that the term “new media” should encompass works created before the computer, but also that the mail art project devised by the artist Ray Johnson should be recognized as a primary example of new media art.
Between 1972 and 1994, Johnson challenged the concepts of ownership and originality by looking to a community in order to produce finished works of art. Johnson’s mail art practice resulted in artworks centered on his personal and shared communication with others. He would send handmade collages to friends, often with directions for the recipient to forward the work to an acquaintance after making modifications to the original object. Among other elements, these artworks included photocopies, found objects, newspaper and magazine clippings, written or typed notes, and detailed drawings. As a body of work, Johnson’s mail art manifests a web of interconnectivity and participation within a community—a practice initiated decades before the development of Internet culture. The series of correspondence currently on view in the exhibition Art=Text=Art: Works by Contemporary Artists at the University of Richmond’s Joel & Lila Harnett Museum of Art reveals how Johnson sought connection with others through a process of creative collaboration.
Johnson’s mail art fostered a collaborative relationship between sender and receiver, occasionally implicating the passive recipient as a creator in turn by asking him or her to add information and send the work to a third party. Through this participatory activity, Johnson highlighted the interface between various subjects and related references, as well as that between participants and subsequent viewers. In this way, his project anticipated the hyperlinks that now direct an online viewer or reader in search of further information. Within computer culture, hyperlinks allow us to search by jumping from place to place, discovering new information as we move through various outlets. Hyperlinks thus facilitate the construction of webs of information based on complex layers of association, enabling users to extend exploration beyond an original or singular object of interest. Similarly, Johnson’s intermixing of visual and textual references encourages the viewer to look past the object. Interpretation of this the work involves accessing external information from mass culture, as well as delving into the dialogue between sender and recipient(s).
Much like contemporary artists who use online resources, databases, community chat rooms, or listservs to create and present works of art, Johnson also located his power in the appropriation of a large-scale municipal service. Rather than relying on a digital system of interconnectivity, Johnson’s work required an analogous system of physical connection, namely the United States Postal Service. Through the USPS, everyone is accessible to everyone else. Only an address or PO box number, along with an intermediary in the form of a mail carrier, is needed to establish a tangible connection. Johnson’s use of the mail service as a creative tool sheds light on how much these connections mattered to the finished product.
Because interconnectivity was clearly essential to Johnson’s mail art, it is instructive to consider its bearing on how the work is interpreted. In order to find meaning in the work, the viewer must examine Johnson’s use of referential media, including script, drawings, abstract found objects, photographs or photocopies. In one work included in Art=Text=Art, Johnson began with a sheet of letterhead, reading “Shelley Duvall Fan Club,” which serves as a base of information on which to build the work of art. This particular piece includes ink-stamped references–hyperlinks in analog–to the Paloma Picasso Fan Club and the Claude Picasso Fan Club. Combined, these three references to popular figures serve to codify this particular work of art, encouraging viewers to make mental connections between the sheet at hand and these exterior subjects. Since Johnson addressed and sent these particular items to an art collector, Wynn Kramarsky, we can imagine that Johnson was additionally commenting on his own fan club of sorts—those who acquired his work.
In this and other examples from the Kramarsky correspondence archive, the participatory aspect of Johnson’s work is clearly evidenced and can be considered within the context of the “shared experience” typically associated with new media. In Johnson’s mail art, the shared experiences are the initial receipt of and the (possible) additions to the object. Yet Johnson’s work is also shared beyond the interaction of the sender and recipient, through the postal service. The mailing of the work facilitates the relationship of the artist to his recipients, and in new media art, this type of relationship has evolved in proportion to the expanding ease of high-speed communication. The shared community additionally relies on an abstract language: that of the nebulous “database” built of mass cultural associations. Passage of Johnson’s work through the postal service leads to the artwork’s manipulation in the physical sense, yet it also effects the decoding of the artwork vis-à-vis each individual’s access to the collective cultural understanding.
Johnson asks the viewer or receiver to “plug in” to a database in order to decode his work. His instructions encouraged sampling and mass-culture mash-ups that reconfigured collective definitions of popular topics, as exemplified by the Shelley Duvall Fan Club letter. The artist often included hand-made logos and symbols, like the cartoon bunny seen in the same collage. (This bunny is often referred to as a self-portrait, frequently serving as Johnson’s signature or commercial insignia.) The information included in each piece is in fact part of a code, a way of accessing the universal language shared by the participants. In order to understand what it means to be in Shelley Duvall’s Fan Club one must know, and be excited by, the work of Shelley Duvall. This means that the viewer must have direct knowledge of what it means to be Duvall’s spectator or must be in a situation such that he or she can understand what fan clubs are about in general. Either way, the recipient must be plugged into the databank: he or she must possess knowledge of the underlying structures that define the text and images used in the collage.
In approaching Johnson’s mail art, the recipient is asked to rearrange the scattered elements of each piece in order to decode the message. This act of decoding—actively discerning links between media and associations—is a primary characteristic of new media technology. When technology is used to combine media and associations, the resulting message is both understandable and presentable to others. The ability to link seemingly unrelated constructions is, from my perspective, what defines a practice as new media. While digital theory tends to place new media exclusively within the context of the computer, a more nuanced definition of the term should also be applied to artworks in traditional, pre-technological media. Ray Johnson’s work is a textbook example of an analog medium–collaged mailings—constituting a landmark technological achievement within a certain period. Digital theorists have commented on the unique ability of the Internet to foster connectivity, yet it is critical that we recognize how Johnson’s mail art achieved quite a similar thing. Once a recipient opens a Ray Johnson envelope, they have the opportunity to dive into a wide range of links in order to access its meaning. Through this interactive process, the viewer becomes a critical collaborator and generator, in that he or she retains the key to a system of understanding shared by a distinct community. Mail art practice is built, in part, on this shared understanding and on the continuous “logging” of the world by artist, sender, and receiver. While Johnson initiates the activity, it is the network that guides the creation of an original work of art. It is within this system that Ray Johnson’s work takes form, thus drawing the artist into alignment with the contemporary movement of new media.
University of Richmond student writer Marina Askari reviews Art=Text=Art for The Collegian! Read the article here.
Amy Ritchie reviews Art=Text=Art for her blog, Richmond Arts Review, after attending Wynn Kramarsky and N. Elizabeth Schlatter’s conversation about the show on September 1, 2011:
“Drawing gets close to the process of making art,” Kramarsky began in his hourlong litany of reasons for being passionate about works on paper, particularly drawing. He believes it the “medium that speaks loudest and clearest” while imparting a sense of immediacy—capturing what must be done, now, this moment on the paper. A drawing should be held in hand and investigated at leisure, not in quick succession as with film or video images, but over a period of time until the “Why?” questions make the piece wholly captivating. Why did the artist do this? What were they thinking? Why did they make these choices?
Read the rest of the article here!
The University of Richmond Museums invites you to participate in our current exhibition Art=Text=Art: Works by Contemporary Artists.
This exhibition focuses on work on paper created between 1960 and 2011 that incorporate or relate to text in different ways. It features 72 works of art by 45 artists drawn from the collection of Sally and Wynn Kramarsky of New York. The development of the exhibition and its website has been a collaborative process amongst many artists, scholars, and writers. We are interested in extending this collaboration and exploring how students engage with the individual works of art or the entirety of the exhibition. Students may write reaction papers, explore creative writing, scholarly essays, art criticism, or exhibition reviews. Contributors have the opportunity to be published both on the University Museums’ website and in the commentary on the exhibition’s online catalogue.
We hope you will consider this partnership and join the University Museum in the ongoing dialogue of Art=Text=Art.
If you are interested please contact:
Denisse De Leon, Coordinator of Museum Visitor and Tour Services
ddeleon[at]richmond[dot]edu | (804)289-8237