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Alida Sayer, "All moments," 2009, hand-cut letterpress prints onto cartridge paper (photograph by Mike Lawrie)

International Artists Explore Font as Art

The momentous emergence of the alphabet and subsequent typeface design endowed mankind with a pivotal, durable form of communication. The current exhibition, “StereoType — New Directions in Typography,” sponsored by the Boston Society of Architects (BSA), demonstrates that utilitarian fonts, renascent in the digital age, are a vast springboard for resourceful thinking, yielding multifaceted visual expressions, including one rooted in profound scientific research.

Font as art? One only needs to recall when this threshold was first crossed by pop artist Robert Indiana, whose “Love” sculpture of four red, upper-case letters arranged in a square with the “O” tilted was first displayed 45 years ago in 1970 at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The design initially appeared on a Museum of Modern Art Christmas card in 1964, and later in 1973, when the iconic image was honored as an 8 cent U.S. postage stamp.

In “StereoType,” Japanese artist Masashi Kawamura did not stray far from Robert Indiana in working directly with enlarged, three-dimensional fonts. Kawamura’s “T-Shirts” (2010) are five black fabric, soft sculptures in the shape of letter “T,” consisting of cotton and rayon, with foam and styrene armatures. The artist said his work was intended to dispel the antithetical notion that fonts and the human form are intrinsically lacking homogeneity.

Kawamura is one of 14 international artists presented in the exhibition; they span the globe, hailing from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States.

French artist Jerome Corgier’s, “Is It Still Type?” (2011), constructed of color paper, wood and glue, blends Arabic calligraphy with Latin typography as a starting point, capturing what he sees as “the sensual delight” of the Arabic font and the “Rigor in movement” of the Latin letters, emphasizing the amalgamation of aesthetics from two distinct written forms, thus transcending the letters’ literal meaning. The sculptural forms produced are both rectilinear and organic.

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