As I’ve mentioned before, the Chicago Cultural Center is a great place to take in free art exhibitions the Loop. During my latest visit, I decided to investigate the exhibition “Write Now: Artists & Letterforms” before it closes at the end of the month. As a writer, I have a fondness for the written word, and I am always fascinated when artists incorporate the visual and the verbal.
“Write Now” features over 60 artists combining the two in more ways than you would think possible. Variations of words, letters, and language cover every wall and fill the space, through prints, paintings, photographs, neon signs, etchings, embroidery, installations, and even sculptures.
Within this varied collection, themes begin to emerge. It would be remiss to put together a show like this without bringing in graphic design, and Chicago artists feature heavily here. Standouts include clever and highly stylized posters by Kathleen Judge and Dan Grezca, as well as Bud Rodecker’s screen prints featuring Chicago-centric phrases like “City of the big shoulders” in a bold geometric font.
Some artists choose to employ text for purely visual purposes. Jason Messinger uses jumbles of letters to form patterns on ceramic tiles in Nine Letterfields. Teresa Albor’s work, She was not sure of anything She took nothing for granted, repeats the titular phrase over and over with the first letter displaced in each line, to create a series of textual diagonals.
Other artists comment on the power of language and the written word. Michael Thompson’s Picostco combines a fake Picasso print, a letter of authenticity, and a Costco receipt valuing the work at 37,000 dollars, poking fun at the blind faith we tend to put in documentation. Matt Siber takes a photograph of a city street and strips the text from the image, rendering familiar logos and objects alien and unrecognizable.
Language is critical tool that allows us to make sense of the world, and the artists in “Write Now” have found a way to examine its idiosyncrasies while simultaneously exploring the aesthetic qualities of text.
“Write Now” will be up through April 29.