NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ.-
This fall the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers explores how artists since 1960 have upended expectations associated with language and artmakingand, in the process, transformed the art of drawing. On view from Tuesday, September 4, 2012 through Sunday, January 6, 2013, Art=Text=Art: Works by Contemporary Artists features more than 100 works on paper, borrowed primarily from the nations foremost drawing collectors, Wynn and Sally Kramarsky.
The 48 American artists in Art=Text=Art include such now-iconic figures as Trisha Brown, Dan Flavin, Jasper Johns, Sol LeWitt, Ed Ruscha, Richard Serra, Cy Twombly, and Lawrence Weiner, as well as innovative artists at earlier points in their careers. Works range from a spare poem typed by Carl Andre onto an ordinary 8 1/2 by 11 piece of paper in 1960 to a large-scale landscape design that Alice Aycock created in 1986which on closer scrutiny reveals itself to be a fanciful topiary labyrinth using ancient and modern letterforms of languages ranging from Arabic to Sanskrit.
Over the course of more than 60 years of studying an extraordinary spectrum of American drawings, the Kramarskys have always shown an intuitive attraction to the intimate processes and experimentation that are inherent in the act of drawing. This exhibition reveals their keen eye, and passion for contemporary art, says Suzanne Delehanty, director of the Zimmerli.
Art=Text=Art features absolutely seminal pieces that are essential to understanding contemporary art and relationships between art and language, she continues. Given the depth of academic resources at Rutgers, this exhibition will spark connections for students through campus-wide discussions and classes in both the humanities and sciences. The Zimmerli will also offer drawings programs for community audiences of all ages to fulfill the museums and universitys public service mission.
I hope viewers will pause in the exhibition to puzzle out how words have a visual appearance apart from their powerful verbal meanings, how illegibility can often be more eloquent than literal interpretation, or how all data visualization is never a given, but must be constructed, remarks Marilyn Symmes, the Zimmerlis Curator of Prints and Drawings and Director of the Morse Research Center for Graphic Arts, who oversaw the museums presentation of the Art=Text=Art exhibition.
Art=Text=Art: Works by Contemporary Artists was organized by the University of Richmond Museums, Virginia, and curated by N. Elizabeth Schlatter, Deputy Director and Curator of Exhibitions, University of Richmond Museums, with Rachel Nackman, Curator, Kramarsky Collection, New York. The presentation at the Zimmerli has been expanded to include a dozen additional works from the Kramarsky Collection, as well as loans of eight drawings that the Kramarskys have donated to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, and the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven.
Art=Text=Art begins with key examples of modern and contemporary text art of the 1960s by William Anastasi, Andre, LeWitt, Weiner, and Mel Bochner, pioneers of Conceptualism and Minimalism. The exhibition continues with later works by these and many other compelling artists as they explored form, function, and multiple interpretations of language. Bochner is represented by key drawings about systems of measurement and three important print series, notably If the Color Changes
(2003), inspired by a quotation about color by the Austrian-British philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. In The Location of Geometric Figures (A Blue Square, Red Circle, Yellow Triangle, and Black Parallelogram) (1976), LeWitt presents an elegant drawing of linear shapes: within each one, he has hand-written a verbal description for how to draw its shape. This text serves as both a rational explanation of the drawing, as well as tonal shading for each geometric figure.
Jasper Johnss deep preoccupation with the dual meanings of markswhether letters or numbersis reflected in four works in the exhibition, including No (1964), a powerful drawing with remarkable gray tones that subtly puns on the the sound and meaning of the words know and the drawings title, the word of refusal. Richard Serras landmark Verb List (1967-68) presents columns of infinitives across two sheets, emphasizing these phrases as actions to relate to oneself, material, place and processand serving as the artists manifesto.
John Waterss 35 Days (2003), in which the filmmaker makes eloquent art out of his daily "to do" lists, and Ray Johnsons unique collaged artist's book, BOO[K] (ca. 1955), are among a number of works that demonstrate how artists expanded the definition of drawing by adapting everyday activities and non-traditional materials. Johnson, a pioneer of mail art, even used the postal system for art distribution outside the conventions of the commercial gallery world. Also on display is Johnsons 20-year mail art exchange with Wynn Kramarsky, a correspondence that began in 1974 and juxtaposes words and images in ways that are simultaneously insightful and perplexing, playful and serious.
The breadth of this survey is suggested by the inclusion of works as varied as Mark Lombardis incredibly complex diagrammatic drawings, mapping secretive financial and political relationships; Jill Baroffs compelling drawing of concentric circles, wherein the lines indicate tide levels recorded within a precise timeframe; and Christine Hieberts deft gestural drawings taking formal inspiration from a series of authentic cattle brands. Jane Hammonds Scrapbook (2003) offers various images as a puzzle to decipher, while her striking printed collage Four Ways to Blue (2006) was inspired, in part, by Vladimir Nabokovs writings about butterflies.
The most recent drawing in Art=Text=Art is Nancy Hayness QR for WK by NH (2012), a patterned drawing that actually functions as a digital quick response code for the exhibitions online catalogue, www.artequalstext.com
. This free online catalogue features essays and images of each work in the exhibition, works of fiction, and sound pieces by more than 35 guest contributors, including a national roster of artists, writers, curators and critics, as well as graduate student arts writers.