Heaps of Language

Heaps of Language


Ecstatic Alphabets is a group exhibition that has put together 12 contemporary artists. Their work include poem/objects, and concrete language experiments that dates to the beginnings of modernism,  and includes both the Dada and Futurist moments as well as the recrudescence of Neo-Dada in the late 1950s. In adittion,  international literary movements like concrete and sound poetry in Europe, Latin America, and the United States are included. In the late 1950s and 1960s many artists experimented with words and used them as a medium.

The works in Ecstatic Alphabets/Heaps of Language represent a radical updating of the possibilities inherent in the relationship between art and language. The letter, the word and the phrase are seen and experienced, and not necessarily read. Physicalized, transcribed into sounds, symbols, pictures or patterns, scrambled, or negated, language is freed from the page as well as from its received meanings, received forms, and, in some cases, the duties of communication altogether. Working with language has also created an opportunity for artists to move more freely among disciplines, and this exhibition includes work in a range of mediums by artists who are also poets, writers, performers, and graphic designers. Like earlier experiments in this vein, many of these recent works have an abiding connection to poetry, which runs like a subtheme through the exhibition, adding the ecstatic element to each works’ alphabetic plainness.

The exhibition is divided into two sections, with the first featuring an abbreviated timeline of language in modern art created primarily from drawings, sculptures, prints, books, and sound works from the Museum collection. Artists in the historical section of the exhibition include: Carl Andre, Marcel Broodthaers, Henri Chopin, Marcel Duchamp, Ian Hamilton Finlay, John Giorno, Kitasono Katue, Ferdinand Kriwet, Liliane Lijn, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Bruce Nauman, Lawrence Weiner, and others.  Artists in the contemporary section of the exhibition include: Ei Arakawa/Nikolas Gambaroff, Tauba Auerbach, Dexter Sinister (David Reinfurt and Stuart Bailey), Trisha Donnelly, Shannon Ebner, Paul Elliman, Experimental Jetset, Sharon Hayes, Karl Holmqvist, Paulina Olowska, Adam Pendleton, and Nora Schultz. The exhibition is accompanied by a publication designed and produced by Dexter Sinister.

Image: Kay Rosen. Shaped Words. 2001. Enamel sign paint on canvas, 21 1/8 x 25 1/2″ (53.7 x 64.8 cm); 21 3/8 x 24″ (54.3 x 61 cm). Courtesy the artist and Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York. © 2012 Kay Rosen, courtesy of Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York.

*The exhibition was organized by Laura Hoptman, Curator, with Eleonore Hugendubel, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Painting and Sculpture, The Museum of Modern Art.

Posted: August 10, 2012 at 6:14 pm