Verbal Becomes Visual in Textuality

At Manifest Creative Research Gallery, ideas for exhibitions are almost an intellectual art form on their own. The little “neighborhood gallery for the world” in East Walnut Hills has a history of dreaming up surprising themes.

Mar 20, 2012 at 1:24 pm

At Manifest Creative Research Gallery, ideas for exhibitions are almost an intellectual art form on their own. The little “neighborhood gallery for the world” in East Walnut Hills has a history of dreaming up surprising themes. Textuality, subtitled An International Exhibit of Works Involving Text or Letterforms, is guaranteed to bring in people like me, interested in words and also how they look. The look is varied, surprising, sometimes beautiful and altogether intriguing.

Manifest sends out worldwide invitations for submissions to its shows, so Textuality includes artists from the East and West coasts of the U.S. and points between, as well as from Canada and Germany. Adam White of Louisville is as close to “local” as the show’s lineup gets.

One of two works by Los Angeles-based Pato Hebert is the first you see — it’s on the front window. The other is pasted to a gallery wall, visible through his window mounting. Each is made up of individual letters, not spelling anything, ranged in rows and forming a rectangle. Viewers more knowledgeable than I might catch a computer reference or recognize the typeface, which is elegantly simple, made interesting by varied width in the shafts. Hebert calls the window version “24 Synonyms for Search” (2011) and the one on the wall “39 Synonyms for Search” (2010). The impact of computers on print is also reflected in TyRuben Ellingson’s undated “Morphic Drift” and Margaret Whiting’s “New Standard Encyclopedia of Universal Knowledge” (2009), the latter pages from an encyclopedia tied in rolls. Ellington is from Arizona; Whiting’s an Iowan.

Adam White has a thing for action stories. He has cut up and pasted onto a large, almost newspaper-sized sheet little segments relating to fear, to noise, to dreadful things happening (“Whomp! Whomp!”) for an overall pattern of small type with bad news. He’s copied these bits onto different colored papers so they repeat, but with new backgrounds. Although white dominates, he also uses a strong yellow, an olive/khaki shade, a gray and — surprise — pink. One interpretation could be the repetition of bad news in new guises in the daily papers. His untitled work was made in 2011.

Linda Carreiro, of Calgary, Canada, presents “Poetry Skins” (2010), a fanciful and very lovely derivation from letter forms themselves. Five white paper banners, each riddled with cutout letters, are suspended as a group. The elegant material the banners are made of is Japanese, excised Shoji paper.

Margaret Feltcher’s “blue field 5.3” (2011) and “vapor 1.2” (2009) serve up white letters against two different blues. The Alabama artist’s earlier work has letter forms so tiny one needs to lean close to identify them, scattered like dust around the edges of the square block on which they appear. The second uses larger letters in a topsy-turvy band across the middle of its square block. They suggest a sense of information, unformed and ubiquitous.

Skye Gilkerson, Baltimore, Md., goes Carreiro one better. Instead of just cutting out letters, he removes the entire line of type for “Conversation Abstraction” (2011), made of hand-cut magazine pages. Type has disappeared completely, leaving narrow openings in two rather small pages. They are mounted in a deep frame, an inch or so in front of the backing, and lighted so that delicate shadows are part of the composition.

Carole Kunstadt of New York City also cuts strips, hers from the pages of a Parish Psalmody dated 1844, weaves these long pieces into a small, neat square, adds gold leaf and titles it “Sacred Poem LV” (2009). This reverent work seems to celebrate words’ immediate and contemplative meanings.

Contemplation may have a place in “The sleep of my woven eternity” (2010) by Kenn Kotara, Asheville, N.C. Raised, rounded bulges in black paper, almost like braille writ large, are under glass, framed and rather hard to see. Peering to find out what’s going on here, the viewer sees him/herself reflected in the glass. It’s unnerving.

Ethan Worden, Oakland, Calif., presents a simple but sly work. It is made up of rather ordinary white neon letters spelling “THERE” in off mode but when the neon flashes on, as it does regularly, the “T” doesn’t light and “THERE” has become “HERE.” 


TEXTUALITY continues through April 6 at Manifest Creative Research Gallery in East Walnut Hills.