Monday, January 25, 2016


An exploration of text-based art curated by Norm Magnusson

March 5 - April 10, 2016
WFG Gallery, Woodstock, NY
31 mill hill road • woodstock, new york 12498 


Robert Brush
Jacinta Bunnell
Melissa Cohen
Erika deVries
Keetra Dean Dixon
Mary Anne Erickson
Clare Finin
Isabella Giancarlo
Alex Gingrow
Dan Goldman
Jim Granger
Thomas Huber
Norm Magnusson
Paul McMahon
Franc Palaia
Molly Rausch
Carla Rozman
Mariya Sultan

The complete exhibition can be seen just below this section.

Robert Indiana's iconic "LOVE" sculpture
a cast facsimile will be in the exhibition


Mostly, when we engage with text, it's in the form of signage or advertising or books or magazines, or whatnot, but once in a while, it's in the form of art. Text-based art. A genre that has been around for a long time but has really taken off in the last decade or so.

S0 . . . what is text-based art? Is it simply art with words in it? Is it art where the text (words or numbers) is a central conceptual element or a central compositional or design element? Both? Either?

In the course of pulling together this exhibition, I was consistently confounded by trying to decide whether certain pieces of art should be categorized as text-based or not. And I kept coming back to that line from US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, who famously noted (referring to pornography) that, while he couldn't define it, "he knew it when he saw it." Well, with this show, my goal quickly became "to define it." Here's a start:

#1: The concept of the artwork needs to be conveyed (primarily or exclusively) via text, and, conversely, without the text, the piece is completely different.

Alex Gingrow "As an artist you always make work from what's around you

So then, is a poem a piece of text-based art? Why not? Well, most poems, while designed to be evocative with their words, are simply not attempting to have a visual impact. So maybe that brings us to a second criteria for something to be defined as text-based art: 

John Hollander's "Swan and shadow"
A facsimile will be in the exhibition

#2: The art needs to be intended as a piece of visual art.

This guideline leaves out most commercial design (logos, billboards, sale notices, etc.) but includes a lot of graphic design. Which makes me happy; for far too long, graphic designers have created innovative and evocative work only to have the jealous guardians at the gate between high and low turn their noses up at gorgeous work simply because it was created for a client. Some of the best work in this arena is every bit as beautiful and thought provoking as the best work that has earned the exalted title of "art". A fine example is this piece below by graphic designer Carla Rozman:
"YES/NO" by Carla Rozman

Guideline #2 also begs the question whether there needs to be an aesthetic element -- an intention on the part of the artist to have their art look a certain way. For the cause of defining, let's err on the side of limitation and say "yes" -- whereas conceptual art may leave some or all of that to the mind of the receiver or the creator, text art does not. Which brings us to another guideline and to a fun digression.

First, the guideline:

#3: The artist must be attempting to create a certain aesthetic effect with their text and or imagery.

Now, the fun digression:


The Potter Stewart quotation above is more apt than first meets the eye (or mind) in this discussion, highlighting, as it does, the elevation of concept over execution. For him, it's the "knowing" in the mind of the audience (him) that ultimately defines the designation of the visuals in question. This is almost the very definition of conceptual art. From a sweet website called The Art Story:

Conceptual art is a movement that prizes ideas over the formal or visual components of art works. 

. . . . . 
Their chief claim - that the articulation of an artistic idea suffices as a work of art - implied that concerns such as aesthetics, expression, skill and marketability were all irrelevant standards by which art was usually judged.

Or, as one notable conceptual artist put it:

"What the work of art looks like isn't too important. It has to look like something if it has physical form. No matter what form it may finally have it must begin with an idea. It is the process of conception and realization with which the artist is concerned."  
-Sol LeWitt

In this statement above, I think Mr. LeWitt gives the physical appearance of the artwork a lot of importance; at least, contrasted to point #3 in Lawrence Weiner's 1968 "Declaration of intent" (below), he does. Weiner goes that one crucial step further by "allowing" the ultimate piece of conceptual art and (coincidentally, the ultimate piece of minimalist art): a thought. Just a thought. Can that be art? Here's his "Declaration":

Lawrence Weiner "Declaration of intent"
A facsimile will be in the show.

Weiner is saying that art is in the eye of the beholder here. John Cage more or less said the same thing  16 years earlier with his 4'33", the so-called "silent" piece, in which the musician(s) actively do NOT play their instruments, allowing the audience (and the ambient noise) to create the art.

It reminds me of one of my favorite definitions of art:

"Art is anything made by anybody that somebody calls art."
-Norm Magnusson

A populist and open-ended definition of art if ever there was one. Which is ironic, since the whole thrust of this little rambling essay is to try and come up with a specific definition of what is and is not text-based art, throwing Magnusson and Stewart and Cage and Weiner's vagaries be damned.

Anyway, with only the slightest consideration of LeWitt's and Weiner's words, you can see what a short hop it is from conceptual art to text-based art. And how they certainly overlap frequently. In light of these artist's definitions of conceptual art, it's tempting to say that text-based art is frequently conceptual art made manifest, thoughts given form (like most all art that ever existed) and meaning through visual imagery including text. If "text" is the conceptual part, is "art" the aesthetic part? Very tempting to define text based art like that and just go off to get a beer and some nachos.

Take the piece below by Robert Brush, (below) for example. To Weiner's #2 point, Robert doesn't make neon signs, he doesn't bend the tubes and pump in the gas and hook up the transformer. He has them fabricated. Yet this piece is definitely his artwork, not the neon sign maker's artwork. It's a fine piece of conceptual art and for me, it is without doubt -- one hundred percent, also a fine piece of text-based art.

Robert Brush "We Buy GOD"
As a last word on the confluence of conceptual and text art, here's a blurb from the MOMA website on text-based art: 

Language was an important tool for Conceptual artists in the 1960s. Many Conceptual artists used language in place of brush and canvas, and words played a primary role in their emphasis on ideas over visual forms. Though text had been used in art long before this, artists like Joseph Kosuth were among the first to give words such a central role. The way the words look plays a role in Conceptual art, but it is language itself that has the ultimate significance.


Certainly some of the best examples of text art (such as Brush's neon above) have stripped away much extraneous material: unnecessary imagery and adornment. But does that mean that text art is a subset of minimalism as it is, evidently, a subset of conceptual art?

By way of illustration, take these three pieces below by Ed Ruscha. The MoMA site says that he worked as a typesetter as a young man and "began seeing 'words as pictures'." Very interesting. First up is his iconic "Standard station". For me, this is not a piece of text-based art, it's a snapshot of Americana. Western Americana? Californicana? Commerical Americana? Or all of the above. No matter, this piece seems to be more about the culture surrounding the building and its sign and less about the word/thought portrayed. 

Ed Ruscha "Standard station"
Ed Ruscha "Hollywood"

Even with a more loaded word such as "Hollywood", and in a painting with really nearly nothing going on except some supporting foothills, this piece,"Hollywood" seems on the fence. Text-based art? Close. But I don't think so. 
Ed Ruscha "oof"

But with "oof", above, there's really no debate. Text-based art for sure. So, if the word "Hollywood" had zero other imagery, would it be text-based art? Yes. Indubitably. 

But ridding an artwork of compositional elements and other adornments isn't everything. Take Jim Granger's "Already survived" below; it is without doubt a piece of text-based art despite the floral background evoking tea with grandma. Definitely not a piece of minimalist art. So, if it's not the background (or absence thereof), then what?

"I have already survived" by Jim Granger

It's the action that decides. Which part of the artwork is the prime mover of evocation? Is it the text or is it other compositional elements? With Ruscha's "Hollywood", the fact that it depicts an actual sign and location really seems to make it more of a landscape painting than a piece of text-based art. Same with "Standard station." Does that mean that landscape painting can't be text-based art. Not at all. 

Consider this piece below by Barbara Kruger, "Untitled (your body is a battleground)". Does this seem like a portrait painting? Or a piece of text-based art? I would argue that the background here doesn't matter too much. It could have been a scene from a Civil War battle, it could have been a torso, it could have been worker bees feeding the queen. It could have gotten more abstract or more specific. The background image could have gone all kinds of different ways and the message would have been the same. (Ok, maybe slightly different in the case of the bees.) In this piece, Kruger has successfully moved beyond the constraints of traditional imagery (the face she uses, or any of the images I suggested above) and created a piece where all the real action of the painting is in the text. Or at least the bulk of it. 

Barbara Kruger "Untitled (your body is a battleground)"

Same question with Paul McMahon's "Synchro-niceties" series or Isabella Giancarlo's "Eat your heart out series (both below). Does the background really matter to the concept of the piece? In both cases, while the backgrounds certainly enrich the artworks, they do not seem essential to the concept.

Paul McMahon, from his "synchronicities" series

Isabella Giancarlo from her "Eat our heart out" series. 

David Wojnarowicz "Untitled (one day this kid...)"
Above is a piece by one of my very favorite artists, David Wojnarowicz. Vis-a-vis the 3 guidelines I've identified above, this is definitely a piece of text-based art. It's even been framed! But, in reality, it seems more of an illustrated story than a piece of visual art. Read it through; it's powerful and poignant. So why doesn't it seem to be text art? Does the volume of text make a difference? If a piece has only a few words, is it text art? And if it has a lot of words, maybe it's not? Thoughts?

Rene Magritte "Ceci n'est pas une pipe"
My last note on this intriguing question of how one defines "text art" will focus on this piece above by Magritte. For me, it's a perfect piece of text-based art: the concept is in the text (#1), without doubt it was intended as a piece of visual art (#2), and the artist was after a certain aesthetic effect with both word and visual (#3). But there is one other thing that this piece does, over and above those 3 guidelines: it creates a lovely intellectual and emotional break between what we think we know to be true and what it is telling us is true, or not true. Which brings us to the fourth (and for now, final) guideline:

#4: The text must take you somewhere. It must be evocative. The mere presence of text is not enough.

A swell guideline capping off an interesting set of guidelines to help us decide if something is text-based art or not. But how, truly, can you define #4? It "takes you somewhere"? It's "evocative"? Seriously, who can define what causes such visceral emotional effects? Who can predict what movie will move you or which song will get you to tap your feet? And who, ultimately, can really define, for example, what counts as "pornography"? You can't. You just can't. But with enough careful consideration and failed attempts to do so, what you CAN do is get very good at knowing it when you see it.

Norm Magnusson

Keetra Dean Dixon "NOW HERE"

for more discussion of text art, there's a fine little essay on the Art Encylopedia:


Some truly amazing and moving art by local and national artists.
Unless otherwise noted, all of the art shown (or facsimiles thereof) will be in the exhibition "abc@WFG".

Robert Brush "We Buy GOD"

Robert: The first edition of this piece was acquired for the world famous collection of Raymond Learsy and Melva Bucksbaum for their private museum, the Granary.

Curator: Conceptually and aesthetically, this is a home run of text-based art for me. By subverting a well known sign of the times, it raises questions ranging from economic enfranchisement to theological salesmanship and many other points in between.

Erika DeVries "Our infinite capacity for love" embroidered hand towel

Erika deVries "The Hawaiian blessing temporary tattoo (ho-o-pono-pono"


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Hoʻoponopono (ho-o-pono-pono) is an ancient Hawaiian practice of reconciliation and forgiveness. Similar forgiveness practices were performed on islands throughout the South Pacific, including SamoaTahiti and New Zealand. Traditionally hoʻoponopono is practiced by healing priests or kahuna lapaʻau among family members of a person who is physically ill. Modern versions are performed within the family by a family elder, or by the individual alone.

above: "ecstasy/ashamed" a lenticular by Erika deVries

Erika:            The places I inhabit, beginning with girlhood, womanhood, and now motherhood are my life process and reflect in my artwork. As I age I become increasingly aware of presence and absence and my eye and heart are acutely attuned to these phenomena.

 Transformations, large and small, occupy my daily visual thoughts and visceral feelings. They happen rapidly and seemingly moment to moment when living with young children. New words and their meanings, new movements, skills, and experiences are part of the every day parade; I am staggered by each moment’s fullness then disappearance. I re-learn the power of words as my children learn their power and literacy for the first time. These domestic, daily transformations highlight control, power relationships, and the things we have no control over in our lives, such as loose teeth, physical growth, and change. Art making and life living are my combined practice with a commitment to growth, change, and sharing.

I create works across disciplines out of a voraciousness and desire for a whole experience. I have worked with internet-based projects, photography, performance, video, craft handiwork, radio, lenticular imaging, and sound. Connecting these processes meaningfully, sensually and visually models the personal connections and relationships I wish to make through the work and life living.

Curator: This piece is a great example of text-based art for me and a lovely piece of art, period. Erika mentions “transformations, large and small” and this piece  certainly illustrates one: the presence/absence of  the feelings of being in ecstasy and being ashamed. The words representing them are here one moment and then gone the next, the window to the world beyond blocked (for good or bad) by them, then open without them. The text creates a deeply evocative piece that, without the text, would just be a pretty snapshot out the window.

Carla Rozman "YesNo"

Carla: YesNo! is an exploration of impulse and decision: "Yes! I want to do that; No! I don't have the time. Yes! I want to go home with you; No! You're married." Often, I find myself saying Yes/No at the same time.

Curator: This piece is an interesting straddling of the sometimes fine line between design and art. Carla is a graphic designer and a fine artist and this piece has the distinct feeling of design but also the evocative presence of art. For me, as the viewer, it evokes my (as I grow older) absolute certainty that I really don't know as much as I used to think I did. What do you think?

Melissa Cohen "Purity"

Melissa: This drawing is part of an ongoing exploration of how words and meanings change within the context of their expression.

Melissa Cohen "Shit, cops, guns"
Melissa: A threshold is the place between our private and public space.  This piece comments on the manufacture of public greeting verbology.   

Curator:  Both of these artworks by Cohen are lovely examples of what I consider classic text-based art: aesthetic and background elements add to the meaning of these pieces and yet, without the words, they’re nothing. 

Melissa Cohen "Purity, security"

Melissa: Part of a group of photos and other work concerned with hygiene: racial, mental and biological.

Curator: Melissa also said, in her bio: Text in my art is another layer of cultural iconography much as a found object is to art.. The juxtaposition creates something altogether stronger and different than either standing alone.  The poetry is the tension, the cohesion and the absence of dependence between the two.   

The pieces came out of a period of work that started with my work/grant in Berlin where I lived in a former Jewish neighborhood and confronted both my complacent notions of being a Jew from the U.S. against the space of voids, cracks , and silences of the dilapidated shot and bombed out neighborhood in which I was living. 

The work addresses historical ideas of racial and social hygiene from both the Nazi “final solution” and other popular concepts such as “eugenics”, to books exploring gender and social roles.   The work continued when I returned to the states to also address biological hygiene as the AIDS epidemic was raging.”

I love this piece as a piece of text-based art. So simple and yet so profound.

above: 7 from Isabella Giancarlo's "Eat your heart out" series.

Isabella:  For me, a loss of appetite typically accompanies the end of a relationship.  After a break-up last spring, eight words sat me that I couldn’t shake. I thought about ways to reclaim that phrase… how could I sweeten words that initially took my appetite away? 

I asked friends for their heartbreak quotes and felt those familiar pangs. You didn’t need to understand the intricacies of a relationship to feel the weight of those final words. To me, desserts suggest: Go ahead. Gorge. Engage with the uncomfortable, sticky feelings of a broken heart that are so often dismissed as self-indulgent. Devour and reclaim the words that caused you pain.

Curator: I guess the text-based art I like best creates a synergistic relationship between words and image. These pieces definitely do that.

"I have already survived" by Jim Granger
Curator:  Here’s a piece of text art that straddles a line that so much art in or around this genre does: the affirmation line. Is a rock with the word “imagine” etched in it a piece of text-based art or is it front porch decoration? What if that word has been carved in by a famous artist and what if the rock is being sold in a famous gallery? Here, artist Jim Granger has  embroidered words that are both autobiographical and affirmational and for me, this is a fine example of text-based art.

Norm Magnusson "Fish"

Curator: "Ghoti" is an interesting word construction that illustrates some of the inherent difficulties of pronunciation of the English language. Also, a fine example of art that lives or dies with the text.
For more information on "ghoti", click here.

Clare Finin   Truth Statements, 2012
Personal keepsake, human hair, found object
10 ½ x 11 ¾ “

Clare Finin   The Things I Never Said, 2012
Mothers Handkerchief, human hair
12 x 12”

Clare Finin   A Parents Label, 2012
Childhood nightgown, human hair
19 ½ x 30 ½ “

Clare: In this body of work I begin with family heirlooms, personal keepsakes, and found objects that activate a familiar feeling. I try to create representations of the memories that surround these objects and give a physical presence to these memory traces from childhood. I utilize the physical act of making as a form of remembering through employing traditional domestic techniques that were once commonplace in my family. Rope making, embroidery, and lace tatting help me remember and feel connected to my childhood and family that I have lost.  Like Victorian sentimental and mourning jewelry, I use my own hair as a material in my work.  It is with my hair that I become physically tied to those recollections I mourn.

Curator: Without the text, these pieces are simple mementos. The text adds a layer of narrative and emotion that make these pieces very powerful example of text-based art.

Above: 5 by Alex Gingrow

Alex: From 2007-2013, I worked a full time job as a mat cutter at a frame shop in midtown Manhattan. In my time there, I learned that, in the art world, the frame shop essentially functions like the neighborhood barbershop, or better yet, the red-headed step-child of an already dysfunctional family. Clients felt free to discuss their inner dealings and gallery gossip in our showroom as if none of us would or could have any regard for their lack of discretion. Over those six years, I collected nuggets of those conversations, imagined my own conversations with several of those art world powerhouses, and sought out tidbits from others who also held lowly but otherwise vital positions within galleries and institutions. At the same time, I collected numerous provenance stickers from the backs of frames and portfolios and eventually came to appropriate them with my own name, titles, and details. This became the body of work that I call The Sticker Series.

The impetus for this body of work came from one particular conversation with a client who reminded us to remove the provenance stickers from the old frames and to adhere them to the new frames because “all the money IS in the label.” My work explores both the idiocy and the irony of such a sentiment and is essentially a sharp critique of the world in which I choose to maneuver.  Like the goal of all good literature, I strive to make nuanced work that is at its core an examination of the oddities and intricacies of the human condition.

Curator: Yeah, what she said. I love this body of work, the thoughts behind it and the thoughts in front of it.

Franc Palaia "Trophy/gun"

Franc: fact: In 2016, there are over 300 million guns in the United States. That is enough weapons to equip the standing armies of every single country in the world which is about 200 countries and still have some guns left over.

In the 1990s I wanted to address the unsettling phenomenon of the proliferation of guns and violence in the United States.  I made an observation on how some Americans just worship guns. Growing up Catholic and admiring the beauty and reverence of religious iconography such as guilded statuary in churches and elsewhere I felt that gun lovers had a similar experience when around guns of any type.  I also observed the ironic love that hunters have for animals when they shoot and kill them just to stuff them and proudly display their heads on their walls.  With the Guilt/Gilt series I am playing with the two words Guilt and Gilt. They sound the same but have totally different meanings.

I conflated the worship of religious symbols that are usually highly gilt with the worship of guns. I made pieces that resemble hunters’ plaques on their walls with the heads of innocent dead Americans who are shot either by accident, suicide, out of vengeance, in a criminal act or by random violence. I guilded the guns (the objects of worship) and placed them on the highly polished and stained wooden plaques that normally hold the animal heads.  I cut the plaques to represent the profile images of the murdered human victims such as a young boy, a young girl, a veteran soldier, a hunter, an average man, a young black man, etc. So with “Trophies” I am turning the concept of a trophy upside down where instead of representing pride and accomplishment, rather you are really seeing an object of death, sadness, cruelty, false praise and guilt.  In my WFG Gallery piece the trophy guilded gun is mounted on a hunters profile plaque that is covered by the pictures and names of the hundreds of Americans killed every day, week and year by random gun violence.

Curator: For this piece, the text is a background element and because of that, it may be tempting to say that this is not really a piece of text-based art, but imagine this piece without the text; the text takes it to where the artist says he wants it to go. I agree.

Mary Anne Erickson "Become the man"

Mary Anne Erickson "Deep relief"

Mary Anne:  I’ve been tearing out old ads from the 1930’s - 1970’s since I started my photo morgue as an art school student. I’ve been especially drawn to the ads that struck me as humorous in either their language/content and/or imagery. Also, my mom subscribed to the Miles Kimball catalog when I was a kid and some of the products and associated illustrations just made me laugh out loud. I’ve saved a lot of those too.

In 2012, I created a series of collages incorporating images and text from these sources that I found compelling. I was especially intrigued by how the marketers preyed on people’s insecurities about their appearance and the promise of being a “better version” of yourself if you just use this product.  

Then I fooled around with a few different techniques to enlarge the collages and take them to the next level. I printed some of them on Lazertran, transferred to white masonite boards, then painted with acrylics, accentuating areas of interest.

Other images were transformed into mono prints and photo transfers at The Woodstock School of Art print shop.

As an artist who has been primarily known for my Vanishing Roadside series of paintings, I see a strong parallel in this series. I’m fascinated by a certain whimsical sensibility that existed in the language and imagery of by-gone days. The illustrative nature of vintage signs, and the underlying humor of these vintage ads all add up to bring a smile to my face!

Curator: I love the retro kitsch feeling, so masterfully executed in these two pieces by Mary Anne, but I fluctuate on whether I think they’re text-based art or social commentary or both. They definitely make me, as a viewer, consider American consumer culture and gender roles over the years.

Keetra Dean Dixon "NOW HERE"

Keetra Dean Dixon "I DEAL"

Keetra: “The Divideds” series began in 2010. Subtitled: Banners for a fickle will, each fabric pieces presents a single word boldly printed across it: IDEAL, PRETENDER, AWAY, NOWHERE. Each word is split by a zipper and viewers are encouraged to zip or unzip the language causing a shift in tone with the new language, moving from positive to negative or vice vera.

Curator: Beautiful, simple, evocative text-based art at its purest.

Norm Magnusson "Confusion"

Two passages from the Koran on a background of an Arabic language newspaper. They are two “thall shalt not kill” passages from the Islamic holy book.

The two passages are:

....anyone who murders any person who had not committed murder or horrendous crimes, it shall be as if he murdered all the people. (5:32) 

"You shall not kill any person - for God has made life sacred - except in the course of justice. If one is killed unjustly, then we give his heir authority to enforce justice. Thus, he shall not exceed the limits in avenging the murder, he will be helped."(17:33)

Thomas Huber "Element"
Thomas Huber "Jiggle"
Thomas: "I am especially interested in the different parts of the brain used to process visual info and text info and how one must jump back and forth in their brain to process both together. I use found hand written notes as cryptic clues within the work. Both as Visual TEXTure as well as conceptual texture."

Curator: I love these two paintings and, while I find them a little bit conceptually difficult, feel, in light of Thomas’ statement above that they are most certainly text-based art. What do you think? Can a piece of art truly be classified by one who doesn’t truly understand it? If you trust the artist and follow their lead then the answer is certainly “yes”.

above: "Mercy street" by Mariyah Sultan

Mariya: This graphic work has line after line of theological and poetic writings with each word partially obliterated .  The universal truths become the foundation and under current of the  work with the transcendence of associated religious dogma . The artists intention is to express, as in a lingering prayer, the profound understanding that life, future, justice, hope, and soundness of mind are available to all people -without subjugation to human endeavors.  It is also a reverent acknowledgment to that which is of the Higher Register.

Curator:  This is such a gorgeous piece and as soon as I saw it, I wanted it for this exhibition. It’s especially interesting to me because though it’s comprised entirely of text, it doesn’t feel like a piece of text-based art.  It feels more like a piece of conceptual art comprised of text, perhaps because the actual reading of the text is very difficult? Thoughts?

above: 5 by Paul McMahon from his "Synchro-niceties" series

Paul: Synchronicity is undeniable coincidence which may be feeding a narrative. It may correspond to 'quantum' principles of causality we have not quite incorporated into our worldview. Inner and outer realities dovetail inexplicably.

Curator: So much text-based art has an air of playfulness to it. A delight in the language and what it mostly means and what it might mean. Paul’s artworks here are a fine example of that. Fun and playful yet thought-provoking

above: score sheets from rummy 13 by Jacinta Bunnell

Jacinta: This series of drawings are a collaboration between Jacinta Bunnell and her step-father, Edward  Antoine, who supplies her with daily score sheets from Thirteen, a rummy-like card game first brought back to the family in the '70s from Bunnell’s maternal grandparents’ retirement community in Jensen Beach, Florida.  Bunnell adds color and pattern to Antoine’s grid work tally sheets. They both enjoy the clarity that comes from clean design and attention to detail.

Curator: This work doesn't feel like it’s text-based art to me. I think numbers could and should be considered “text” and could conceivably be evocative (think “13” or “42”) but in this instance the numbers are simply background for some very lovely designs. Still, these artworks are gorgeous to look at and as soon as I saw them, I knew I really wanted some for this exhibition, which is examing what definitely is and almost is text-based art.

above: 4 artworks by Sparrow.
Text art? Comics? Both?

Sparrow: About nine years ago I started writing one-line literary works that I now call “First Lines of Novels.” Each one of them, in theory, could be the beginning of a 582 page work of fiction. Three years later, I began illustrating them. At first I used paper, but my friend Tom Fraser suggested card stock.

Curator: I love these pieces by Sparrow; they’re cartoons, to be sure, but then the question is: can cartoons be art? Can they be text-based art? By dint of clearly being one thing, are they then excluded from being something else?

above: John Baldessari (will not be in show)

below: Inspired by Baldessari's piece above, 2 by Molly Rausch, an artist who wants to sell:

Molly: I bought this John Baldessari postcard in London when I was traveling in 2009.  It made me laugh.  I decided it was time to test his theories.

Curator: Unlike Mr. Baldessari, Molly did paint these. She was going to paint a re-creation of his piece but, instead, came up with these wonderful, art-historically rich originals based upon his painting. Perfect little nuggets of text-based art.

above: "This land" by Dan Goldman

Dan: "This Land Is Your Land" was written by Woody Guthrie, America’s most famous folk singer in critical response to Irving Berlins "God Bless America." Feeling a bit like Woody may have when he penned the song in 1940.  "I'm feeling angry and powerless at the hands of large corporate entities that live greedily for profit at the expense of the people who inhabit this land.”  These days I'm thinking Woody would be singing these versus right along with us if he could.             

Curator: I love this piece, using the form of an existing song sheet to create a social commentary. Text art as political art. Perfect.

above: front and back of a 'historical' marker by Norm Magnusson

Norm Magnusson "The Gettysburg Address segregated by letter"
Curator: Well, this is my piece and I really like it a lot but it seems more a piece of conceptual art than a piece of text-based art. The meaning here comes more from the presence of the text and its individual elements, (maybe even from the historical importance of the speech itself) and not so much from the words or what they signify.

Norm Magnusson "Yosemite Sam"

Norm Magnusson "down"

above: a page from "A humument" by Tom Phillips
(book will be present at the exhibition)

Curator: A classic, early piece of art (and, in a way, writing (or, at least, storytelling)) from 1970. Tom Philips treated each page of a novel from 1892 entitled A Human Document with different artistic techniques, leaving certain words to show through, which then told a different story altogether.  This seems not so much text-based art as, perhaps, art-based writing.

above: a classic by John Hollander
(a facsimile is in the show)