A word is worth a thousand pictures | KERA News

A word is worth a thousand pictures

Arlington, TX – [There is sound here of people milling around the museum and talking.]


Suzanne Sprague, KERA 90.1 Reporter: The crowd at Friday night's opening for the Arlington Museum of Art reflected the diversity of the Museum's various exhibits. Grey-haired art enthusiasts were joined by more avant-garde youths, creating something along the lines of the Upper West Side meets Deep Ellum. Joan Davidow, Director of the Arlington Museum of Art, curated the four exhibits now on display, including "Next Text," which highlights how visual artists use printed words in their pieces.

Joan Davidow, Director, Arlington Museum of Art: This happened with Braque and Picasso when they first started doing collages, so this is not new to art. Contemporary artists are doing it as one more way to express themselves. Sometimes the words seem to matter and sometimes to the visitor there might not be an easy connection.

Sprague: Take Tuba Ozetkin's installation "Inside/Outside" as an example. Ozetkin came to the United States from Turkey to study photography. She wanted to create a work of art that gave viewers the same sense of isolation she's felt as an immigrant. But Ozetkin believes photography alone can't convey that sense. So in addition to projecting pictures of her family onto sheer curtains, she also projects words, in both English and Turkish.

Tuba Ozetkin, Artist: All cultures have their own definitions for stories to explain the world around them. Only language keeps somebody [an] outsider from a different culture.

Sprague: Another artist, Tierney Malone of Houston, frequently uses printed words in his paintings to express ideas from his own personal life. His work at the AMA is called "Atmosphere for Lovers and Thieves," a name taken from an album by jazz saxophonist Ben Webster.

Tierney Malone, Artist: Basically, it's an amalgamation of thoughts, which all my work is, but the references are everything from literature, music, cinema, popular culture.

Sprague: Painted on rectangular blocks of rich colors are phrases meant to look like old signs. One phrase, "Stretch Dancing," refers to Malone's godfather, Howard Stretch Johnson, who once performed at the famed Cotton Club. Another phrase, "Stolen Moments in Heavy Syrup," alludes to both a jazz composition and a common commercial phrase.

Malone: The text itself is not always literal. It's poetic as it is visual. I'm not literally trying to make or recreate a sign, but I like the vehicle of signage because it's very familiar to me, it's very familiar to the viewers.

Sprague: The "Next Text" exhibit is running in conjunction with another exhibit called "Burn It!," which features artists who work with fire. AMA Director Joan Davidow selected the works to coincide with the burning of the museum's ten-year mortgage.

Davidow: Now they've done this six foot clown with, we think, seven thousand matches. And the matches were studded in this drawing, six matches to an inch. We burned the mortgage that lit the clown drawing and it flamed 22 feet high and we're all safe and it smouldered on its own.

Sprague: During her nine year history with the Museum, Davidow has focused on showing the work of Texas artists. "Next Text" and other exhibits continue that tradition and will be open at the Arlington Museum of Art through August 19th. For KERA 90.1, I'm Suzanne Sprague.