Words a Plenty – “Text as Image” at Lump

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The current work on view at Lump, replete with more artistic applications of text than you might ever imagine possible, is at various turns awe-inspiring, bewildering and a little confounding, a bit aloof at times, but more often than not pretty fun to peruse.  It’s worth the effort to delve into the show as there are great rewards to be had from the art on display if you spend a little time absorbing.   Perhaps it’s just me, but I find that there’s a strangely perverse pleasure to be had when words by themselves take on the vaunted mantle of art and it’s a great exercise to see if they in fact live up to the bill under the added pressure.  (As if cultural connotation, the often diabolical details and workings of language,  linguistic evolution, and cultural significance aren’t enough in and of themselves.) There’s also an added benefit in this type of work in that the titles of the works are often spelled out right there in front of you- they are generally composed or somehow configured to comprise the parameters of the work itself- so it’s pretty easy to place yourself within the context of the show particularly if you have exhibition index in hand.

All told though this is in fact a great show. The work ranges from very literal takes on the exhibition’s theme – Sol Lewitt’s Sentences on Conceptual Art ( rendered on gold plate in James Johnson’s own conceptual twist on the iconic work) to pieces that bend the limits such as Amy White’s Text/Objects/Painting No. 2: The Theory of Everything which as its title might suggest is as much multimedia installation as it is a text-oriented work.   TeamLump co-founder Michael Salter contributes his Pop influenced and succinctly titled Vinyl Installation which is a full wall-size compilation (an extravaganza really) of slogans and short phrases pulled straight from the world of advertising rendered logo style and strictly in black and white (color versions are available however.)  Additional highlights include works by West Coast graffiti and multimedia artist Barry McGee, Lump’s own Bill Thelen, and Pop pioneer and Mail Art impresario Ray Johnson without whom in fact no exhibition of this type would truly be complete.  It is a joy to see Johnson’s work in particular included.  For me this trio in fact sums up much of what the show comprises: thoughtful considerations of the possibility and aesthetic power of something as simple as alphabetic characters, the possibilities text might pose as artwork in its own right and profound questions regarding the community it serves.

Text as Image is on view at Lump, 505 S. Blount St. in downtown Raleigh through May 22, 2010

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