MCA’s Postscript explores art and language
The exhibit blurs lines and crosses disciplines
Published: Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 31, 2012 00:10
Denver’s Museum of Contemporary Art pushes the boundaries of medium and questions the definition of art itself. Postscript: Writing After Conceptual Art opened Oct. 12, featuring work that is highly conceptual and based as much in the artists’ processes as in the final products.
According to the museum, Postscript “features the work of over fifty artists and writers exploring the artistic possibilities of language.” Postscript occupies the second floor, and each room features many artists, grouped together by common processes.
Despite the fact that the exhibit features so many artists, the pieces make the most sense together, since many reinvent or are inspired by other artworks. Both Fiona Banner and Michelle Gay have exhibits based on the medieval Bayeux tapestry, which depicts the Battle of Hastings. Banner’s exhibit, “Indian Ink On Wall,” presents the tapestry’s narrative in textual form, printed on the wall in large layered and faded letters, emphasizing the tapestry’s violence and brutality. Gay retells the tapestry’s story in the ++Code of the computer game “Quake,” using the code to make a sort of impressionist mosaic of the tapestry, blending time periods and mediums.
All the pieces displayed in Postscript explore translation and the blurring of mediums and disciplines. Jonathan Monk’s sculpture “Tasty Painting” is a sandwich made of painted pillows, accompanied by a description of the food. The piece came about through a sort of artistic game of telephone; Monk asked the artists group Arts and Language to translate a painting into text, which he translated back into a painting, which became the painted pillow display. The piece points out the “impossibility of translation” and demonstrates the “slippage between the visual and the verbal.” The incongruences between translations reflect the differences and similarities of art and language, and the difficulties of translating between languages, cultures, and mediums.
Like Monk’s, many pieces in Postscript have stories behind them that are vital to their appreciation. In “Statements of Fact,” Vanessa Place uses her experience as a lawyer to create a textual display (which basically looks like wall-sized pages from a book with lines blocked out) that is a feisty middle finger to the critical world and is based off Place’s badly received poetry collection, which is based off of her collection of legal documents. For “Statements of Fact” Place stripped away everything from the text except for the pornographic parts. It consists of bizarre lines like “He grabbed his penis, finding what she thought was mesh underwear.”
Themes of translation are also explored in Sol Lewitt’s “The Location of Lines,” a book in which a line is printed on a page with a statement describing its location on the opposite page. Much of Postscript is like this—not so much what we traditionally think of as “art,” but rather a conceptual exploration of what art means in its various forms.
Although incredibly interesting, Postscript is not an exhibit to casually browse. Instead, it requires reading the placards, and taking the time to contemplate and discuss. With so many different artists and pieces that are based heavily on concept, process, and backstory, the experience of Postscript blurs the lines of art and essay—which, of course, is what it’s all about.
The exhibit will be at the Denver MCA through Feb. 3, 2013. Admission to the museum is five dollars for students, with a dollar off for taking public transportation or biking.