For the Art Kabinett at Art Basel Miami Beach 2008, Galerie Gmurzynska prepared a special exhibition exploring the manifold and often surprising interrelations between image and text in 20th century art.
At the birth of civilization, text and image were closely linked. Pictograms were able to be both representational images and conveyors of concrete meaning. Over the millennia this connection was lost, remaining in intermittent use only in art practices (medieval illuminated pages and dialogue in Renaissance paintings immediately come to mind). It wasn’t until the twentieth century that text and art were reunited by the avant-garde, a pairing that, while started by the Cubists, has influenced every generation of artists working over the last hundred years. As the practice became more mainstream, most actively in the early sixties and the Pop art movement, artists began to employ text in their art in a variety of ways. Conceptual artists placed text in their work to draw attention to the use of words in society. Others appropriated words from their natural environment, transforming signs from design into high art. Still others used words to create narrative that couldn’t be told without the inclusion of language. Text allows artists to create ambiguity, draw attention to specific social issues, and add content to work that would otherwise be purely visual. As we firmly enter the next millennium, it is clear that the contributions made by artists using text in art will affect many more generations of artists to come.