The use of graphic text or the printed word within an artwork can completely alter the meaning of a piece or be the subject matter in itself. Text can also place a piece in time – Copperplate writing, 1800’s; text as logos eg Pathe News, early/mid 1900s; computer generated text, contemporary.
It can raise ambiguity and questions in the mind of the viewer if the subject and the text are at odds with each other.
Ed Ruscha (b. 1937): Normally categorised as a Pop Artist, Ruscha sits on the edge of that genre with his ironic, observational distillation of West Coast America represented as words or phrases floating in space or sitting on top of a static image. With the text, Ruscha is able to imbue his work with humour and ambiguity that couldn’t be achieved using image alone. http://edruscha.com/works/pay-nothing-until-april/
Jasper Johns (b. 1930): Johns moved away from painting traditional subjects or abstract work and instead chose to imbue everyday, recognisable symbols with added meaning by constructing the pieces eg “Flag” from other collected material, in this case fragments of torn newspaper dipped in encaustic and applied to the surface allowing the text to show through. John chose to challenge the viewers’ pre-conceived ideas associated with the familiar, often very powerful, symbols.
Tracey Emin (b. 1963): In much of her work, Emin uses text to both accentuate the meaning of her work and shock the viewer out of complacency, forcing one to reassess our perceptions of the words in question and to examine the context in which they are used. http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/emin-hate-and-power-can-be-a-terrible-thing-t11891 , http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/emin-is-anal-sex-legal-t11890
Louise Hopkins: Uses printed pages and blocks out many of the words leaving the rest exposed eg “Of and Of” http://www.louisehopkins.com/index.php/paintings-and-drawings/ She makes paintings and drawings directly onto surfaces that already contain information; world maps, patterned furnishing fabric, comics, catalogue pages, magazine pages, photographs, folded or crumpled paper and sheet music. The viewer first sees the intricate mark-making and flow of the design and then notices the words in the gaps and attempts to find meaning in the interplay between the design and the words.
Peter Horobin: As well as his room installation of data sheets documenting his life day to day over the space of a year, there were the “Acrobat” pieces which comprised articles, including a red suit which had the word “Acrobat” written all over them. The result served to separate the letters of the word and occasionally recombine them depending on the way the viewer reads them – vertically, horizontally or randomly much like the Acrobat himself whose life was difficult to pin down or define.
Lara Edgar’s contribution to the GSA Degree Show was a poignant reflection of the conditions suffered by miners in the 1900s. Her installation combined printed Accident Statistics and a list of common diseases as well as workwear – coats and boots – hinting at the absence of their owners.
Ruscha, Ed: (b. 1937): https://www.gagosian.com/artists/ed-ruscha ; http://edruscha.com/featured-works/
Hopkins, Louise: http://www.louisehopkins.com/index.php/about/
Horobin, Peter: https://www.nationalgalleries.org/exhibition/now-nathan-coley-louise-hopkins-pete-horobin-tessa-lynch-rivane-neuenschwander-tony-swain?destination=exhibitions/current
Johns, Jasper: http://www.theartstory.org/artist-johns-jasper.htm
Emin, Tracey: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/emin-is-anal-sex-legal-t11890
Edgar, Lara: http://ink361.com/app/users/ig-4748917627/gsa_paintandprint/photos/1537082995064024110_4748917627