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Word as Image

Georges Braque
The Clarinet (La clarinette), summer-fall 1912
Oil with sand on fine linen canvas
91.4 x 64.5 cm (36 x 25.4 in.)
© 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation Peggy Guggenheim Collection,Venice, 1976

In the early 20th century, Cubist artists such as Georges Braque incorporated text into their works in innovative ways. Braque used words in his paintings to fragment and fracture the image, creating a sense of disjunction between language and representation. This allowed viewers to engage with the artwork on multiple levels, exploring the relationship between word and image. Similarly, Pop artists like Roy Lichtenstein often incorporated text into their paintings to play with the conventions of comic book storytelling and popular culture. Lichtenstein's paintings often featured quote bubbles that added a sense of narrative to the otherwise flat, graphic images.

The use of text has carried on evolving and expanding in contemporary art, taking on new forms and functions. For example, street art often incorporates bold letters and phrases to convey social and political messages, as seen in the work of artists like Keith Haring and Kenny Scharf. More recently, artists like Barry McGee (TWIST) and John Matos (CRASH) have continued to push the boundaries of street art with their innovative approaches to typography and color.

Text has also been used as a means of critiquing dominant cultural narratives. Barbara Kruger, for example, is known for her provocative works that combine found images with bold, often confrontational text. Glenn Ligon draws from sources like James Baldwin and Zora Neale Hurston to explore issues of race and identity. Meanwhile, artists like Tracey Emin and Martin Creed have incorporated text into their works to explore personal experiences and emotions, often using language in a confessional or autobiographical way.

Glenn Ligon
Condition Report, 2000
Iris print and iris print with serigraph, two parts
Each: 81.3 x 57.8 cm (32 x 22.8 in.)
AP 3/7; Edition of 20 and 7 APs
Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Lelong & Co., New York

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