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Saturday April 19, 2014
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Seeing Language



(Curators Brian Spolans and Leslie Atzmon created the title by wedding the words nonsense and context.) The works on display defy a quick read, resist effortless comprehension. The exhibit presents us with a broad exploration into the aesthetic qualities of text and how it can be used to communicate visually, rather than semantically.

In a few of the works, letters of the alphabet have been combined, ordered, and stacked--like the basic building blocks that they are--to create images and structures. "Disfrutelos" (1977), by Susan Bee and Charles Bernstein, is a series of pictures composed of typed letters, symbols, and punctuation marks. With their evocative abstractions and deft balance of spare language and white space, the pictures reminded me of poems. Justin Quinn's gesso and collage print "Idle Tower" (2011) is a shadowy urban landscape of buildings constructed from the sturdy, brick-shaped capital letter "E." And typography combines with masonry in Jim Stevens and Ryan Molloy's "writing wall" (2013), a large wall built from lettered concrete blocks. According to the artists' statement, these blocks were cast from foam molds cut by a suitcase CNC (computer numeric controlled) milling machine; the artists compare the wall's fabrication to the composition of a paragraph. The letters on each block proved difficult for me to decipher, however--the type does not use curved lines, only straight--so I stood before the wall, awed but illiterate.

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