Week 2: Using Text as Art

  1. LOOK AT: Artists who use text in their work including: Yoko Ono, Jenny Holzer, John Baldessari, Barbara Krueger, Geurilla Girls, and Shelly Niro. And more contemporary examples including: Nadia Myre, Joi T. Arcand, Jon Rubin, Eleanor King, Micah Lexier, Lenka Clayton, Alisha Wormsley and Germaine Koh.

John Balderssari:

  • I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art, 1971
  • Tips for Artists Who Want to Sell, 1966-1968

Lenka Clayton:

  • Fruit and Other Things, 2018

Germaine Koh:

–        Dear Mercer, 2006
Yoko Ono:
–        Grapefruit, 1964
–        Billboards since 1960s, e.g. Fly, 1996; War is Over, 2008
Jenny Holzer, 
–        Truisms, since 1980
–        Survival Series, 1986
Barbara Kruger, 
–        Untitled (Your body is a battleground), 1989
–        BELIEF+DOUBT, since 2012
Guerrilla Girls, 
–        Guerrilla Girls Definition Of A Hypocrite, 1990
Shelley Niro,
–        The Shirt (detail), 2003
Joi T. Arcand, 
–        Northern Pawn, South Vietnam, 2009
–        Amber Motors, 2009
Nadia Myre, 
–        Indian Act, 2002
Eleanor King, 
–        No Justice No Peace, 2015
Jon Rubin:
–        The Last Billboard, 2010-2018
 
  • WRITE: Select TWO artworks from above to write about. Compare and contrast the different ways the artists use media (materials, platform, format) to express their message. How is the medium relevant to the message in each case? How are viewers expected to relate to the text in each case? (Write approx. 250 words).

Shelley Niro, The Shirt (detail), 2003

The first work that I chose was The Shirt (2003) by Shelley Niro. This is a photograph-based artwork from the lens of First Nations people criticizing European colonialism in America and consequences in the present day by parodying tourist souvenir tee-shirts and photographs . An Aboriginal woman is in the center of the work facing the camera, wearing a bandana with the American flag graphic, and wearing the tee-shirt with the texts. An American landscape is in the background of the work, adhering to the takeover and destruction of the land of Aboriginals. Rather than stating where the one or multiple people were visited, it states the impact of colonialism, in this case violence, annihilation, massacring, and that the next generations of the ancestors do not get as much as what the white European backgrounds get. No post-production effects were applied to this image and the materials used in this work already effectively communicate the issues.

Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Your body is a battleground), 1989

Untitled (Your body is a battleground) by Barbara Kruger is the second work that I chose to write about. This is another photograph medium like many of her other works as it features an appropriated close-up of a woman’s face portraying feminism. However, unlike Shelley Niro’s The Shirt featuring a landscape in the background, this work only features pure black and white images with a regular and inverted half, allowing the focus on the woman’s face and texts. This work is also larger than The Shirt as it was created to emulate a poster for the April 9, 1989 Women’s March in Washington for supporting legal abortion, birth control and women’s rights. It also differed from The Shirt as effects were applied to image after it was taken. The key titles within this work are in bold white on red background and hence the march, the small title says “support legal abortion birth control and women’s rights”, while the largest and central title is “Your Body is a Battleground.” Kruger states that pictures and words both work together for rallying and there is a combination of photographs and assertive texts that challenge the viewers.

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