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Kay Rosen

Editions and Multiiples

September 6th to December 15th, 2007
Linienstraße 160, Berlin
photos: Susanne Ullerich

Helga Maria Klosterfelde is delighted to present a new edition by American artist Kay Rosen. The work will be shown at Linienstrasse 160 together with her earlier editions published during the last 15 years with Helga Maria Klosterfelde Edition, starting September 6th, 2007.

Text in its physical manifestations such as colour, size and typography, as well as in its structure and infinite semantic possibilities has been artistic source material for Kay Rosen since the 1970s. In the process the studied linguist takes interest in the cultural and political potential of language, examining it with word-play, humour and overstatements, displacement or inversion of meaning. Strongly influenced by experimental dance, music and performance art in early years, Rosen understands language first and foremost as performative exercise, and dealing with it always as an act of hearing, speaking and seeing.

The early Read Lips (1993) is exemplary for this, as it displays the word MUM over three pages both as text and as image, the latter depicting the sketched movements of the mouth while pronouncing the word. The different states of lip-movement correspond with the shapes of the letters M, U, and M – synchronizing the written language with the visual and the oral system of signs. The edition entitled, Open, Orb, Orifice, Donut, Globe, Hole, Whole, Halo, Zero from 1999, plays with language as a rendez-vous of poetic imagery and performative act. A simple letter O is painted here directly onto the wall as a fluorescent orange circle by means of a stencil. The O shifts from ornament to semantic carrier through its title that strings together nine terms, each containing the letter O, that can all be represented with the shape of a circle. Through the act of speaking the oral richness of the vowel O is being expressed and the text turns into an event.

Drawing on the classic genre of painting, the new work Stilllife with Blue Table (Earth Quake) (2007) finally carries the object-like behaviour of language – text-as-image as we might encounter on advertising signs and in headlines – to extremes. The items of the still life are pictured merely by the use of the initial letter of the delineated word, respectively – a T for a table, a V for a vase, and U for urn. The orange O appears as a reference to the earlier edition, however here clearly belonging to the image in its representational allocation, signifier and signified are becoming one. In the inverse meaning of still the letters-come-image have incurred into ominous movement, which for the ever politically thinking artist also paraphrases the condition of our world.

The work points to the receptive two-way task of seeing and reading – the viewer has to finish reading the particular letters in their minds eye in order to see the image. Elsewhere Kay Rosen once said, In order to reconstruct meaning, the reader is invited to become a viewer, to see and to reason rather than to read. Seeing, thinking, reading – Kay Rosen challenges us expertly in all three categories.

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