Looking at Words: A Poetry of Shape features over 200 artworks of diverse media by 20 prominent contemporary visual artists, whose practices have centered on their rigorous examination and powerful rendering of language and text as subject matter and as visual form.
It provides the general historical context of such text-based artworks by tracing their ascendance back to Conceptual Art and Pop Art that emerged in the 1960s and ’70s. This exhibition amply demonstrates a variety of the thought-provoking ways in which these artistic giants have explored the potential of written language — sometimes paired with image in an evocative and poetic manner, and other times to disrupt a viewer’s preconceived notions about language as a rational system of communication. Many of these artists of words are also deeply concerned with sociopolitical, historical and cultural dimensions of American life, as well as their own personal, philosophical and universal issues.
Drawn entirely from the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation, the exhibition includes works by John Baldessari, Mel Bochner, Louise Bourgeois, Chris Burden, Mona Hatoum, Damien Hirst, Jenny Holzer, Robert Indiana, Jasper Johns, Barbara Kruger, Sol LeWitt, Glenn Ligon, Josiah McElheny, Bruce Nauman, Raymond Pettibon, Richard Prince, Ed Ruscha, Lorna Simpson, Andy Warhol, and Carrie Mae Weems. Taken altogether, their language-based artworks exhibit a wide range of conceptual approaches, perspectives and visual strategies that define paramount trends and practice in contemporary art.