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Text Formed Drawing at Contemporary Art Galleries
Ward Shelley, Sketch of Chris Burden, 2005. Oil paint and toner on frosted mylar. Collection of Fred and Helen Dunbar, NY.

STORRS, CT.- The Contemporary Art Galleries at University of Connecticut presents Text Formed Drawing, on view through December 13, 2006. Text Formed Drawing spotlights the many ways contemporary artists have incorporated words and text into their creative work. What holds this diverse body of large and small drawings together is the imaginative manner in which text has been fully integrated into a page’s formal design. The words found in Text Formed Drawing are never just tacked on captions, but rather they shape one’s aesthetic experience. Many of the drawings are politically sarcastic in tone, while other messages gain their strength by offering forward humorous wisdom.

The Artists: Beth Campbell, Lesley Dill, Sean Landers, Mark Lombardi, Carlyle Micklus, Caoimhghin O'Fraithile, Serge Onnen, Raymond Pettibon, Ward Shelley, Guy Richards Smit, Molly Springfield, and Michael Waugh.

Text and form. Language and image. In Text Formed Drawing, the usage of text has layers; text is language or communication but text is also an aesthetic form in and of itself. Language and image become co-dependent entities. The text depends on composition as the context from which textual meaning emerges. The image relies on letters and words for both its formal structure and visual perspective. Text becomes a drawing tool in the work of Michael Waugh and a narrative in Sean Landers Michelle's Dalmatian. Text supports the tension between the points of contention in the work of Mark Lombardi and the points of anxiety for Beth Campbell.

Text in visual art traces backwards through the history. Visible in the illuminated manuscripts of the medieval period, text or a letter served as the foundation, drawn first onto the parchment or vellum, onto which an image was then painted. Illuminated pages are documents and religious artifacts, art and written prayers. Fast-forward to the early twentieth century and text becomes even more prevalent in art. Synthetic Cubism utilized text, along with mixed media elements, such as newspaper, as a tool to flatten the surface of their work. Dadaism visually used text as a tool for communication, but orally, in the poem of Hugo Ball, text became just nonsensical sounds, an irrational use of language in response to war. Learned through linguistic and semiotic theory, the nature of language is arbitrary and meaning comes from how we imbue signs with ideas. In Text Formed Drawing, text shares an intimate responsibility with form to communicate meaning. Drawing fully incorporates language and form.

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