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XYZ: Alphabetical Ruptures and Reformations
July 8 @ 10:00 am - 5:00 pmFree
Tauba Auerbach, Dexter Sinister, Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds, and Caroline Kent
July 8 – September 4, 2022
KinoSaito Art Center is pleased to announce XYZ: Alphabetical Ruptures and Reformations, a group show examining how alphabetical systems appear in a variety of contemporary art practices. Curated by Sophie Landres, the exhibition will be on view July 8 – September 4, 2022 and include work by Tauba Auerbach, Dexter Sinister, Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds, and Caroline Kent.
How do letters speak to us when encountered outside of linguistic constructions? What do their formal attributes reveal about history, power, and cultural values? Why have so many artists looked to the alphabet as both a wellspring of creativity and a proxy to contest social orders writ large? This exhibition considers how letters signify when estranged from literal signification. Through painting, drawing, sculpture, and experimental typography, the artists in XYZ approach alphabets as systems that are rife with ambiguity and instability but organize our consciousness and social worlds nonetheless.
By alphabetizing all the letters that appear in a standard edition of the Bible, Tauba Auerbach follows a logical system to its illogical conclusion, yielding an abstract pattern that maintains the meditative and mysterious qualities of its source material. Their drawings on the edges of Helm Wotzkow’s instructive The Art of Hand-Lettering similarly seek to expand perceptions of manually and mechanically reproduced letters. Dexter Sinister’s animated essay traces the historical relationship between typography and the “intelligence of alphabets,” beginning with theories of divine proportions, through the Enlightenment’s mathematical rationality, to the indeterminacy of digital code. Written in a self-referential typeface that was programmed to be in perpetual motion, the essay is equal parts medium and message. “New York” appears in mirrored letters in Hock E Aye Vi Edgar Heap of Birds’ site-specific welcome signs that reposition Native American tribes as the hosts of their ancestral land. The double inversion of symbols and symbolic claims to land draws attention to how alphabets play a role in forced assimilation and colonial occupation. Caroline Kent’s paintings are comprised of letterforms that circumvent legibility. Critiquing language as inherently limited and exclusionary, she revives Modernist abstraction into arrangements of repeated markings that privilege nonnormative modes of communication. In aggregate, XYZ demonstrates the paradoxically restrictive yet infinitely generative form and function of alphabets.