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artscope magazine: May/June 2013
WELCOME STATEMENT: Brian Goslow, managing editor
The Ceramic Spectrum: A Survey of Contemporary Ceramics
Swept Away: Translucence, Transparence, Transcendence in Contemporary Encaustic
Sophia Narrett: I Was Dreaming This
Nasser Ovissi: Modern Day Iranian Art
Gregory Wright: Forces
Barney Levitt: As I See It
Lasse Antonsen: Nocturama
Carol Pelletier: Local Ground
Colo Colo Gallery
Four Fiery Females: Allison Bamcat, Veronica Fish, Jennifer Lewis, and Elizabeth Siegel
Connecticut's Crusade
Burst of Light: Caravagio and His Legacy
Hot Pot: A Taste of Contemporary Chinese Art
Word and Image: If a Picture is Worth a Thousand Words, What Happens When You Add Words to Pictures?
Richard Erdman, A Life in Stone
Just Chairs: A Survey of Side Chairs
Art Nights
Ken Gross: Lost Maps of Norumbega
CreateHereNow: A New Creative Placemaking Project Builds Up Bridgeport
Word and Image: If a Picture is Worth a Thousand Words, What Happens When You Add Words to Pictures?
Marcia Santore

Hood Museum of Art

Dartmouth College

Hanover, New Hampshire

Through August 4

A group of senior studio art majors at Dartmouth College set out to explore exactly that under the guidance of Hood Museum director Michael Taylor. I visited “Word and Image in Contemporary Art,” on view at the Hood Museum of Art through August 4, on a weekday morning when students were in class and the light museum traffic was mostly focused on the Hood’s larger exhibition, “The Women of Shin Hanga” (up through July 28). It was a rare opportunity to see an exhibit as almost the only visitor.

Later, I was able to speak with Taylor and learn something about the students’ curatorial process. The 24 participating students considered artworks in Dartmouth’s Bernstein Study-Storage Center. They each chose a piece, researched it and wrote text for the wall panels. Taylor encouraged them to write from their own perspective as artists and students. “The labels are astonishing in the way they talk about the works, and in so doing, talk about themselves,” Taylor said. From his perspective, the exhibition is as much about the students’ writing as the works of art. The show was filled out with additional works chosen by museum staff members, who added If a picture is worth a thousand words, what happens when you add words to pictures? their own words. Deciding how to hang so many disparate pieces was another challenge. “There’s a mentoring moment that occurs when you talk to students about why one piece is next to another,” Taylor explained.

The result is a fascinating collection of contemporary artwork incorporating words in different ways for different reasons. Depending on the piece, words can be almost incidental to the overall image. In “McLean, Virginia (Pumpkins),” a firefighter buys pumpkins from a farm stand as a house blazes in the background. Does the piece need the signs proclaiming “Farm Market” and “Sweet Cider,” or would it be just as evocative without them? Davilyn Barnwell concluded that, “The photograph is both a quaint and brilliantly colored image of farming America and a subversive play on the viewer’s expectations, casting a rather sinister shadow on an otherwise picturesque rural scene.”

In some pieces, the words are essentially captions, as in Vito Acconci’s piece “Trademarks,” a group of photographs documenting a performance piece in which Acconci bit various places on his body. In others, the writing is an indispensable part of the piece itself, even for those who do not know the language. “The Women of Morocco #23 (Femmes du Maroc #23)” is Lalla Essaydi’s 2006 large scale color photograph of a female figure completely covered by a white cloth closely inscribed with flowing Arabic script in brown ink, as are the wall and floor behind her — is she part of her environment or subsumed by it? Rebekah Riley wrote, “When the viewer steps back to reexamine the work and reflect upon their train of thought, they are forced to address stereotypes and prejudices to which they may have thought themselves immune.”

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