by Lisa Mikulski
As a writer, I love the power of words but I will freely admit, there are times when the words we write, read and speak can seem like a minefield of misinterpretation or a source for derision. This has never been truer than in today’s social and political climate.
“Words Bite,” now showing at Hallspace Gallery, is an exhibition focusing on the language we use and how we interpret what we hear, say and read. While the pieces in the show focus on text, gallery owner John Colan warned me that it’s not just about typography or graphic design. The show presents the work of four artists and designers: Walter Kopec, John Kramer, Tony Schwensen and Maggie Stark, who explore language using the mediums of, yes, graphic design, but also neon work, performance and video.
Maggie Stark, a sculptor who works with light, glass and video, discussed her piece, Boomerang: “The words, ERRORS – ARROWS – EROS, link together to create a linear loop or a boomerang. Neon seems an appropriate medium in a show about words. Much as words articulate sound, the neon tube articulates light, encasing the immaterial, giving it meaning.”
Walter Kopec, a designer and artist, plays with words, puzzle-making, and letterform manipulation asks the viewer, “To think about the potential double meanings, cronies, doublespeak, hypocrisy and innuendo conveyed through carefully parsed language; and sometimes to recognize that people often do not mean what they say, and in fact, can sometimes mean the opposite.”
Interdisciplinary artist, Tony Schwensen, offers thought on American political rhetoric, “Something that I have witnessed over the past nearly ten years living in the United States (I am Australian) is how these ideas of manifest destiny, American freedom and American exceptionalism are present in art and cultural production in general. Indeed, from my perspective they form the basis on which art history is taught in art schools and how art is understood in the U.S.”
Not all the artists here chose to express global language or political rhetoric. Designer John Kramer’s work is work done to express a personal journey and his own mortality. He explained that his piece, Words to Live By, has “the bite of submission rather than the bite of resistance.”
“I just want to recognize that given the opportunity to use my voice in an art — and thus in a public context, that I chose to reflect on issues of interior, rather than global significance. All the word groupings in the piece have mortality as their subtext. I recognize that my own mortality is of little consequence, but maybe it is a place to start.”
(“Words Bite” runs through January 13, 2018 at Hallspace Gallery 950 Dorchester Ave., Dorchester, Mass. the gallery is open Friday and Saturday from noon-5 p.m. and Monday through Friday by appointment. For more information call (617) 288-2255 or visit http://www.hallspace.org/.)