Curator, Writer, and Museum Administrator
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Art=Text=Art: Works by Contemporary Artists

Art=Text=Art: Works by Contemporary Artists 

Joel and Lila Harnett Museum of Art, University of Richmond, August 17 through October 16, 2011

The earliest works in the exhibition represent the movement perhaps most closely aligned with text art — Conceptualism, which arose in the 1960s out of frustration with the development of modernism, especially with the dependence on an art object that was often explicated with extensive text (from the artist, a curator, or a critic).  Instead, some of the artists included in Art=Text=Art such as Lawrence Weiner (American, born 1942), Sol LeWitt (American, 1928-2007), and Mel Bochner (American, born 1940) sought to create art that provided direct engagement with ideas, demystified the aura of the art object and creative act, and criticized the politics and economics of the traditional art world.

Some of the featured artists examine linguistics and explore the structure of text and its effectiveness or ineffectiveness as a tool of communication.  Ed Ruscha (American, born 1937) makes works that exploit the visual and verbal form of words in conjunction or in contrast with their meaning, and William Anastasi (American, born 1933) examines issues of form and definition in his “shorthand” drawings.  Karen Schiff (American, born 1967) considers the structure of text and its placement in books, newspapers, and illustrated manuscripts, and how that structure provides a context that can mimic or amplify the content of the text itself.

Work by artists who use text as a formal element similar to color, shape, and composition are also featured in the exhibition.  American artist Jasper Johns (born 1930) subjects the shapes of numbers and letters to his unique painterly style that subtly questions the ease with which meaning is assigned to symbols.  Cy Twombly (American, 1928-2011) included excerpts of poems that are so scrawled as to become illegible yet the words cohere with the overall composition seamlessly. 

The artwork featured in the exhibition is from the collection of Sally and Wynn Kramarsky, New York.  Wynn Kramarsky is a collector of modern and contemporary drawings, who has had portions of his collection exhibited at various museums, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; and the Harvard Art Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 

Art=Text=Art was organized by the University of Richmond Museums and curated by N. Elizabeth Schlatter, Deputy Director and Curator of Exhibitions, University Museums, with Rachel Nackman, Curator of the Kramarsky Collection, New York.  The exhibition and programs were made possible in part by the University of Richmond’s Cultural Affairs Committee, and funds from the Louis S. Booth Arts Fund. 

The exhibition is accompanied by an online catalogue featuring images of all of the works in the exhibition, an essay by N. Elizabeth Schlatter, and entries contributed by University of Richmond alumni and students among other artists, writers, curators, and critics.