March 2, 2009

Online Art in America: Schwabsky on words

Art Fag City reports that Art in America has at long last gone online, which means I can finally share Barry Schwabsky's recent essay about the uses of words in art. Schwabsky considers Mel Bochner's new collection of writing and interviews, Solar System & Rest Rooms: Writings and Interviews, 1965–2007 (Writing Art) and Liz Kotz's Words to Be Looked At: Language in 1960s Art. "Kotz’s readings are richly exploratory but very selective; one sometimes wonders if she isn’t generalizing from too few examples. Among the many artists who are less crucial to her study than might be expected is Bochner. Reading through his criticism, statements and interviews from a period of more than 40 years, one is more impressed than ever with the power of his restless mind, so ready to stake everything on an extreme view yet equally able later to calmly reconsider and revise the view so passionately espoused. The principle Bochner never gives up on is that of self-criticism. Reading Bochner with Kotz’s analyses of representational modalities in mind, one notices with interest that his book includes not only various genres of writing (exhibition reviews; critical, speculative and historical essays; collages of quotations; notes; interviews; etc.), as one would expect, but also various modes of representing those writings visually, and it mixes them up in a canny and unconventional way. Writings here may be newly typeset (with or without illustration); they may be reproduced as facsimiles of the original layout of a publication, pictorially preserving its illustrations and typography; or they may be presented as photographs of handwritten note cards or notebook pages. Moreover, texts may be presented not as 'texts' but as 'illustrations' (e.g., Self-Portrait, 1966, one of a series of ink-on-graph-paper text 'portraits' that Bochner made using Roget’s Thesaurus). By mixing these various modalities, Bochner continues to do what he has been doing all along: questioning the relation of language to representation and the manifold ways language can be a medium for artistic work." Read more.

Booksigning: On Saturday, March 16th from 5:00 – 7:00 pm Printed Matter, Inc. is hosting a Mel Bochner book signing. Published as part of MIT Press’ "Writing Art" series, Solar Systems and Restrooms may be purchased through Printed Matter’s storefront or online at www.printedmatter.org. Requests for signed copies may be arranged in advance.


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