The latest issue of Artlink (a contemporary art quarterly published in southern Australia) caught my attention with a series of articles devoted to “the word as art.” Of course there is a long tradition of using letters and calligraphy as the basis of artwork. Traditional arts from Persia, East Asia, and the Maya world are particularly noteworthy in this respect. But the range of text art seems to have increased recently.
Inside Out, a show of contemporary art from China that in San Francisco was jointly hosted by SF MOMA and the Asian Art Museum in 1999 (curated by Gao Minglu of Harvard in association with Colin Mackenzie of the Asia Society and Elise Haas of SF MOMA) included several excellent examples, such as Xu Bing’s remarkable Book from the Sky, a work composed of thousands of made-up characters, and Wenda Gu’s United Nations Series: Temple of Heaven (China Monument), a work made up of human hair.
Xu Bing, A Book from the Sky, 1987-91. Woodblock print, wood, leather, ivory, four banners: 103 x 6 x 8.5cm (each, folded): 19 boxes: 49.2 x 33.5 x 9.8cm (each, containing four books). Queensland Art Gallery: The Kenneth and Yasuko Myer Collection of Contemporary Asian Art, purchased 1994 with funds from the International Exhibitions Program and with the assistance of The Myer Foundation and Michael Simcha Baevski through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation.
Wenda Gu, United Nations Series: Temple of Heaven (China Monument), 1998. Installation with screens of human hair. Approx. 24 x 30 x 27 ft. (732 x 914 x 823 cm). Collection of the artist.
After the break: brief summaries of the Artlink text/art-icles (and a quotation from each).