Text as Image: Mel Bochner, Graham Gillmore, Glenn Ligon, Bruce Nauman, Gary Simmons

February 17 - March 31, 2012

Mel Bochner
No 9

Senior & Shopmaker is pleased to announce Text As Image, opening February 16th and featuring works by Mel Bochner, Graham Gillmore, Glenn Ligon, Bruce Nauman, and Gary Simmons. The exhibition includes works in diverse media united by the use of language as a visual art form. 

At the heart of Mel Bochner's (b. 1940) artistic practice lies the examination of the relationship between the idea behind a work and its physical manifestation. Sputter is a luscious impasto of oil paint on velvet from the artist’s Thesaurus series, wherein each painting starts with a word at the upper-left corner of the canvas and is succeeded by a list of synonyms borrowed from Roget's Thesaurus. Throughout the painting, the synonyms gradually devolve into colloquial, and often vulgar, slang terms for the original word, revealing Bochner's interest in the ability of language to break down over time. Glenn Ligon (b. 1960) is best known for his landmark series of text-based paintings, which draw on the writings of diverse figures including Jean Genet, Zora Neale Hurston, Jesse Jackson, and Richard Pryor. Using black oil stick and stencils in his drawings, Ligon methodically covers the picture surface by repeating a specific sentence or phrase. In his etching diptych, Untitled, the text “Negro Sunshine” taken from a 1909 novella, Melanctha, by Gertrude Stein about a mixed-race woman, is interrupted by a simulated flash or burst of light on its surface, impeding its meaning and legibility. 

Ludwig Wittgenstein's writings on language have been an important influence on Bruce Nauman’s (b. 1941) work, shaping his interest in the way words succeed or fail in referring to objects in the world. Nauman's work, which often contains comic or absurdist touches employing jokes and word play, also touches on obsessive behavior and aggression. Represented by two early works printed at Gemini GEL in Los Angeles, NO, 1981 and Violins/Violence, 1985, Nauman makes reference, respectively, to the gestural brushstrokes of the abstract expressionist tradition and its negation by the artist, and the written and aural similarities of two words with very different connotations. 

Text allows Graham Gillmore (b. 1963) to maintain a narrative thread while using non-figurative imagery. His works are intuitively built from fragments of personal and public utterances and confessions, in a fluid, organic style where disparate block letters are bound and tied by the thinnest of lines and multiple colors. His images are screenprinted and hand-colored against backgrounds of used ledger paper whose scribbles hold their own narratives, alluding to the ultimately fragmented and sometimes disconnected nature of human experlence. 

Gary Simmons (b. 1964) creates lush, monochrome surfaces on which the subject, often text drawn from American mainstream culture, is displayed in contrasting white paint. In two new aquatints produced at Paulson Bott Press, the image references Jack Nicholson’s famous scene in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, “all work and no play, make Jack a dull boy”, in which the character obsessively types the sentence on endless reams of paper. In Simmons’ works, the words stream across the paper in smudged, partially erased letters, as though in the act of dissolution. Erasure of the cliché, in this case, the ideal of work/ leisure, dullness/ goodness, and perhaps even the act of art making itself, conveys the artist’s concern with overlooked meanings and the way popular culture impacts behavior and memory. 

Gallery hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., and Saturday 11 a.m.-6 p.m. For further information, please contact gallery@seniorandshopmaker.com.

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