From the recent passing of text-friendly painter Cy Twombly to the exhibition of Richard Prince's personal book collection at the National Library of France this past spring, we've heard a lot about words and art lately. This dialogue has local echoes in Watkins' Handmade & Bound book event, Vanderbilt's The Book as Art fine-binding show at the Jean and Alexander Heard Library, and its companion exhibit at Vanderbilt's Fine Arts Gallery — Reading Pictures: Text and Image in Contemporary Art.
Reading Pictures demonstrates how artists incorporate letters and words into their work, providing an illuminating snapshot of the contemporary conversation between language and pictures. Douglas Gordon's "Laughing-Crying" offers this printed phrase: "I'm not laughing. I'm crying." The phrase's mirror image is printed directly below it. These two lines run into their horizontal mirror images, bringing all four together in a tangle of lowercase "g"s. In the second set of phrases, "laughing" and "crying" switch places, making the mirror images take on an opposite meaning as well. More importantly, the pristine printing and gorgeous font allow the text to function purely as an artistic line; the meeting place of the phrases is not a collision, but the striking of balance.
With "The Enlightened Savage," Enrique Chagoya sends up Andy Warhol and the art world with a stack of "Canibull's" soup cans. The grisly red and white labels offer up "Artist's Brains with Rice," "Museum Director's Liver" and "Critic's Tongue," among other similarly enticing varieties. Les Levine's art project/tabloid Culture Hero: A Fanzine of Stars of the Super World was a monthly publication that debuted in 1969. Reading Pictures features a cover sheet from the paper. The headlines and images are printed using a psychedelic rainbow-roll that bleeds from violet to blue to red, making the Culture Hero project a particularly '60s-style expression of the concept of artist as magazine publisher.
With "Biotherm (For Bill Berkson)," artist Jim Dine creates a visual response to verse by poet, art critic and Museum of Modern Art curator Frank O'Hara. O'Hara's overlapping occupations in the worlds of art and letters make him the ghost in
the exhibit's machine, and it's fitting that the portfolio's entire run of 42 lithographs is the most prominent work in the show. O'Hara's stream-of-consciousness rant-cum-love-letter to writer Bill Berkson dances with, wrestles and stares down Dine's visual interpretations, which are by turns lovely, lewd, energized and evocative.
China and Egypt developed pictographic languages thousands of years ago, and ancient bards fashioned images out of their lines at the very beginnings of poetry. Pictures and text have always been entwined. With "The Treachery of Images," René Magritte taught us that an image of a tobacco pipe is not an actual pipe. However, the word "pipe" in the painting's text is also not an actual pipe. It's an abstract representation — a picture of a different kind.
I was all like "how do you get the phone number for TMZ?!?!" you can't…
I think it's weird when speculation is wedged into an otherwise straightforward biography. I love…
I always read your column BEFORE I watch the show anymore. It's better that way.
What's the other review you read?
This was the worse review I've ever read. Maybe you should quit this career path…