“Verbi-Voco-Visual Explorations: Language in Art and Text”
Oct 15-November 3, Lilly Library Foyer
In this exhibition, artists, designers and publishers explore the connections between text and form. These selections from the Lilly Library demonstrate the cutting-edge yet playful experimentation of Fluxus art and visual poetry, which pushed the boundaries of textual conventions and investigated the production of meaning in language and art. Many of the works featured in “Verbi-Voco-Visual Explorations” come from the personal collection of Mary Ellen Solt, 1920-2007, a concrete poet and former professor of creative writing at Indiana University. The title “Verbi-Voco-Visual Explorations” is borrowed from artist Marshall McLuhan, who in turn borrowed it from James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake–an example of not only the multidimensional iterations of meaning conveyed in the exhibition, but also how influences can be sampled creatively into new works.
The exhibition includes big names like John Cage, whose centennial is celebrated this year, and also lesser known but still influential writers and artists. Cage’s M: Writings ’67-’72, in which he explores words, names and concepts through textual visualization techniques such as mesostics, a form of poetry in which words are spelled horizontally using letters from the middle of lines. Another iteration of the complicated nature of textuality and reading is Bruno Munari’s thought-provoking Libro illeggibile or “Illegible Book.” The work’s absence of text and red string threaded through the pages makes the book more of a sculptural object than a learning tool; while the codex format engenders understanding through familiarity. Johanna Drucker, a highly influential scholar of artist’s books, visual poetry, digital humanities, also demonstrates her artistic ability through her artist’s book The Word Made Flesh, which celebrates the embodiment of text through rich all-over page design and consummate deployment of fonts and colors to enrich meaning. Lilly’s edition of Jorge Luis Borges’ Ficciones illustrated by Sol LeWitt presents an intriguing melding of two highly-regarded figures. A number of the works included were published by the German imprint Hansjörg Mayer, a major publisher of artist’s books and an early innovator of the use of computers in graphic design.
The exhibition was crafted to highlight the upcoming show “Buzz Spector: Off the Shelf,” opening October 19th at the Grunwald Gallery. “Off the Shelf” features both Spector’s large, sculptural installations of books and his Polaroid works. The installations, including “The Library of Babel” inspired by Borges’ short story of the same name, and a piece featuring books by Indiana University authors, are all borrowed from Indiana University’s libraries. These installations invite commentary on the logic and poetry of the arrangement of books, and ask the audience to consider the function of the book object. Spector’s oversized Polaroid prints further investigate the themes of meaning and form, authorship and ownership, and the physical experience of reading.
Spector is an eminent figure in the artists’ book and book arts communities and an internationally known artist and writer. He has published numerous artists’ books as well as editing the critical volume The Book Maker’s Desire: Writings on the Art of the Book.
Additionally, The Fine Arts Library is hosting a complementary exhibition “On the Page: Artists’ Take on the Book and Library” October 6-November 8 in the Fine Arts Library lobby, which gathers examples of thoughtful, artistic engagement with the materiality and symbolic functions of the book object, stacks of books, and entire libraries. For more information, visit the Fine Arts Library blog: https://blogs.libraries.iub.edu/FAL/