Words, Words, Words: An Exhibition of Text Based Artwork

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© Courtesy of the Artist and Elizabeth Leach Gallery
Words, Words, Words: An Exhibition of Text Based Artwork

417 N.W. 9th Avenue
97209 Portland
February 5th, 2015 - March 28th, 2015

United States
Tue-Sat 10:30-5:30 and by appointment.
Multimedia, painting, digital, drawing, sculpture, photography, conceptual


Words, Words, Words is an exhibition of text-based work featuring 21 regional, national and internationally renowned artists, who are recognized for utilizing text in their work as a primary vehicle for expression. As far back as the graffiti of Pompeii, artists have used text to elicit an emotional response. Whether it is Jack Pierson's repurposing of letters from old signs or Barbara Kruger’s terse and often aggressive layering of text over photographs, the artists in Words, Words, Words use text to evoke feeling and stimulate discourse. Ranging in media from Ghada Amer's embroidered painting to Chris Johanson’s works on paper, the variety in the way each artist incorporates text into their work makes for a dynamic and engaging exhibition.  

Ghada Amer was born in Cairo and studied at the Villa Arson in Nice, France. Her embroidered canvases address cultural identity, religious fundamentalism, acts of sexual violence and confronts the language of hostility and finality with narratives of love and longing. Amer currently lives and works in New York and has exhibited at the Venice Biennale (Venice, Italy), the Sydney Biennale (Sydney, Australia), the Whitney Biennale (New York, NY) and the Brooklyn Museum (Brooklyn, NY).

Lisa Anne Auerbach is best known for her knit sweaters that channel female labor, craft and text-based conceptual art. Auerbach typically knits the sweaters to fit her body, adorning them with political messages. Her work can be seen in institutions such as The Getty Research Institute (Los Angeles, CA),
The Hammer Museum (Los Angeles, CA), LACMA (Los Angeles, CA), Printed Matter (New York, NY) and the University of Michigan Museum of Art (Ann Arbor, MI).

John Baldessari is an internationally acclaimed American artist commonly associated with Conceptual or Minimalist art, though he has called this characterization “a little bit boring.” He fuses photography and painting with text to create compositions that explore our cultural landscape. Baldessari’s work is included in numerous public collections around the globe including Musée d'Art Contemporain Lyon (Lyon, France), Museum of Modern Art (New York, NY), Tate Britain (London, England) and the Gallery of Modern Art (Brisbane, Australia).

Robert Barry creates conceptual artworks in a variety of forms including his “word list” installations, in which Barry prints capitalized words directly on walls or surfaces to evoke a narrative and inspire contemplation. Barry encourages free association of meaning to his work. His work can be found in public collections such as The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York, NY), The Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, NY), Museum Of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles, CA), Museum für Moderne Kunst (Frankfurt, Germany) and Museum of Modern Art (New York, NY).

Pat Boas makes drawings, paintings, prints and digital projects about the activity of reading. Her work has been shown at the Portland Art Museum (Portland, OR), the Center for Contemporary Art (Santa Fe, NM), the Boise Art Museum (Boise, ID), the Center on Contemporary Art and Consolidated Works (Seattle, WA) and the Cleveland Museum of Art (Cleveland, OH). In 2012, she received a Bonnie Bronson Fellowship, a Pollock-Krasner Fellowship and a Ford Family Foundation Golden Spot Residency Award. Boas lives and works in Portland, OR.

Mel Bochner, is noted to be one of the most influential pioneers and practitioners of Conceptual art. His paintings, installations and photography reflect his avid engagement of language as image and content. His work can be found in collections around the world such as Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris, France), The Art Museum of South Texas (Corpus Christi, TX), Gallery of Modern Art (Brisbane, Australia) and the Städel Museum (Frankfurt, Germany).

Andrea Bowers work largely centers around the convergence of art and activism. She uses a wide variety of media including drawing and installation in her practice to address issues ranging from workers’ rights, to sexuality and gender discrimination. Bowers’ work was included in the 2004 Whitney Biennial (New York, NY) and 2008 California Biennial (Newport Beach, CA). She lives and works in Los Angeles, CA,

Peter Downsbrough is an architect, photographer and conceptual artist who creates spatial interventions with a minimalist visual vocabulary of letters and lines. “The word for me is an object,” he has said. Downsbrough’s work is included in the permanent collection of many institutions including the Museum of Modern Art Library (New York, NY), New York Public Library (New York, NY), Tate Gallery Library (London, England) as well as the Centre national d’Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou (Paris, France).

Jenny Holzer is an American conceptual artist. Whether she is questioning consumerism, describing torture, or lamenting death and disease, her use of language is designed to agitate and disturb. In 1990, Holzer received the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale. Her work can be found in such public collections as the Museum of Modern Art (New York, NY), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (San Francisco, CA), Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN) and the Tate Collection (London, England).

Chris Johanson’s career stems from his early activities in the Northern California punk scene, in which he produced murals, posters, and zines. He became known early in his career for his cartoon-like aesthetic as well as his use of recycled materials to create conceptual themes. In 2014 Johanson had a solo exhibition at the Portland Museum of Modern Art (Portland, OR). His work has been included in exhibitions at institutions such as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (San Francisco, CA), Museo De La Ciudad De Mexico (Mexico City, Mexico) and the Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago, IL).

Barbara Kruger is an internationally renown artist best known for layering found photographs with provocative text. Her works challenge the viewer to question issues of classism, feminism and consumerism. Kruger has been included in exhibitions at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (Philadelphia, PA), The Museum of Modern Art (New York, NY), The Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, IL), The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY).

Michael Lazarus’ creates paintings on panels constructed from found materials including commercial signage and lettering. He reconfigures these elements to create statements or questions that lure the viewer into the work. His work has been exhibited at Deitch Projects (Long Island City, NY), San Francisco Art Institute (San Francisco, CA), Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington (Seattle, WA), and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (San Francisco, CA), among others. Lazarus lives and works in Portland, OR.

Glenn Ligon is a multimedia conceptual artist known for his text-based paintings exploring issues of race and sexuality in America. A mid-career retrospective of Ligon’s work, Glenn Ligon: AMERICA, opened at the Whitney Museum of American Art in March 2011. Ligon has been the subject of solo museum exhibitions at the Power Plant in (Toronto, Canada) the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN), the Institute of Contemporary Art (Philadelphia, PA) and the Kunstverein (Munich, Germany). His work was included in Documenta XI in 2002, and the 1991 and 1993 Whitney Biennials. Ligon lives and works in New York, NY.

Bruce Nauman is an innovative and provocative artist whose practice spans a broad range of media including sculpture, photography, neon, video, drawing, printmaking, and performance. Known for his text-based work, Nauman uses the evocative power of language, dismantling linguistic structure, creating puns and oxymorons, and linking contradictory words in alliterative sequences. His work was included in the 2013 Venice Biennale and can be found in such collections as the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (Washington, DC), Tate Gallery (London, England), Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, NY) and the Museum of Modern Art (New York, NY).

Melody Owen creates collages incorporating print media that are captivating and quiet, encouraging the viewer to find the narrative within. She has exhibited at such venues as the Royal College of Art (London, England), Clough-Hanson Gallery at Rhodes College (Memphis, TN), Spoonbill and Sugartown (Brooklyn, NY), the Bellevue Art Museum (Bellevue, WA) and the Portland Art Museum (Portland, OR). In 2009 she was artist-in-residence at Gaestatelier Krone in Aarau, Switzerland, funded in part by the Oregon Arts Commission. Owen is represented by the Elizabeth Leach Gallery.

Matthew Picton’s wall-mounted sculptures of urban environments reconstruct, in paper and vellum, aerial views of city streets and blocks. Unlike street maps, Picton’s representations are at once cartographic, topographical and cultural, incorporating period-specific texts and musical scores. Born in London England, Picton studied Politics and History at the London School of Economics. His work is included in the collections of The De Young Museum (San Francisco, CA), The Herbert Museum of Art (Coventry, UK), The Fidelity Bank collection (London, UK), The Stadt Museum (Dresden, Germany) and The New York University Langone Medical Center Collection (New York, NY).

Jack Pierson is a multimedia artist known for word signage installations, drawings, and artist's books that explore the emotional undercurrents of everyday life, infused with a sly sense of humor. Pierson’s work can be found in collections as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (San Francisco, CA), Seattle Art Museum, (Seattle, WA), Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN) and the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, NY).

Jaume Plensa is a Catalan Spanish artist and sculptor, known for his public art projects. He combines both traditional and unconventional materials, often with text, to create energized hybrid works that engage his viewers on an intuitive, psychological level. Plensa’s work can be found in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, IL), Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (Barcelona, Spain), Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig (Vienna, Austria) and the Museum Marugame Hirai (Maugame, Japan). Jaume Plensa is represented by Galerie Lelong, New York, NY.

Michelle Ross examines the relationship between abstract painting and digital photography, a medium used to record, disseminate, and contextualize painting. Her work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions both nationally and internationally, including those at the Institute of Contemporary Art (Boston, MA), The Art Gym at Marylhurst University (Marylhurst, OR), Portland Art Museum (Portland, OR), and Rome International University (Rome, Italy). In 2012, Ross was named as a Hallie Ford Fellow in the Visual Arts. Ross is represented by the Elizabeth Leach Gallery.

Ed Ruscha is an internationally known artist widely associated with the Pop Art movement. Ruscha’s work is heavily influenced by his initial interest in graphic arts, incorporating text as well as urban and western landscapes into his art. His work is included in numerous public collections such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY),  Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, Tate Gallery (London, UK) The National Gallery of Art, (Washington DC), National Galleries of Scotland (Edinburgh, Scotland).

Buzz Spector is an internationally recognized artist, who works in a wide range of mediums. Spector's work makes frequent use of the book, both as subject and object, and is concerned with relationships between public history, individual memory, and perception. Spectors work in included in the collections of The Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, IL), Walker Art Center, (Minneapolis, MN), Whitney Museum
of American Art (New York, NY) and Kunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu (Berlin, Germany).

Lawrence Weiner is a prolific artist and a central figure in the field of Conceptual art, advocating a practice based in ideas and actions rather than on the art object itself. While his art encompasses various media, his primary form since the 1970s is text-based wall installations. Weiner’s work can be found in the Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, IL), the British Museum (London, England), the Israel Museum (Jerusalem, Israel), the Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles, CA) and the Museum of Modern Art  (New York, NY).