Text in visual art affords succinct communication of the artist’s voice intertwined with aesthetics. Often co-opting visual culture outside of contemporary art – such as advertising, political slogans and graphic design – artists employ words for a variety of effects ranging from the serious to the irreverent. Word, a group exhibition of 28 artists at Hugo Michell Gallery in Adelaide, is an in-house curated showcase of text-based work by Australian artists.
In development over the last 18 months, the exhibition combines represented and unrepresented artists.
“Text is a unifier,” explains co-curator Jenna Pippett. “We thought it would be a good common ground, to bring in some heavy hitters and some emerging artists as well.”
In Word the use of text includes puns, lists, political statements, affirmations, confessional narratives, anagrams, monologues and phrases. “Humour is a theme that has popped up quite a bit, but artists use humour in different ways, such as to get across a political point of view or provide a little secret in a confessional way,” says Pippett. The exhibition includes a poignant large neon piece by Brook Andrew spelling out ‘Kill Primitivism,’ a graphically constructed witty work by Jon Campbell, and a playful series by Alice Lang that plays with the many uses of the word ‘shit’ rendered in her trademark marbling fashion. According to Pippett, “The idea is that the exhibition will be like a big library of conversations.”
The show fills the two gallery spaces as well as the foyer, which holds an installation by Lucas Grogan made specially for Word in which he has wallpapered the space with flyers and business cards. “It plays to the humour and chaos of a community notice board,” says Pippett. “I think this is a real highlight.”
The breadth and scale of the exhibition also allows Hugo Michell Gallery to broaden its artistic community. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for us as a commercial space to work with artists that we haven’t before and develop new relationships,” says Pippett. “I think that commercial galleries can often be a bit isolating in that they only exhibit their represented artists, so an opportunity like this, where we are including unrepresented artists, helps broaden our conversation with a wider community.”
Word features work by: Abdul Abdullah, Roy Ananda, Brook Andrew, Narelle Autio, David Booth [Ghostpatrol], Jon Campbell, James Dodd, Will French, Tony Garifalakis, Lucas Grogan, Kate Just, Anastasia Klose, Sue Kneebone, Alice Lang, Richard Lewer, Sophia Nuske, Nana Ohnesorge, Philjames, Kenny Pittock, Toby Pola, Tom Polo, Elvis Richardson, Derek Sargent, Paul Sloan, Sera Waters, Gerry Wedd, Min Wong, and Paul Yore.