featured gallery for November 2010

Treat My Words

“Typography exists to honor content,” declares Robert Bringhurst in The Elements of Typographic Style, considered a milestone in understanding and designing with type.

As a writer and graphic designer, I am naturally drawn to using words. Yet the more I study design, the less interested I am in executing typographic perfection as I am understanding how the way words look can imply or alter what these words mean.

Typography by skill is a visual treatment of words.

Typography by philosophy is a medium of meaning.

Or, according to Bringhurst, “a craft by which the meaning of a text (or the absence of meaning) can be clarified, honored and shared, or knowingly disguised.”

Can the same be said for the way artists work with text?

This quest for finding works that use text—and what visual treatments they employ to create meaning—guided my curatorial exploration in the through the Visual AIDS slide archives.

Over nine hours and three visits, I selected text-based works in which:

  • materials match the message (Joe de Hoyos and Samuel F. Lewis)
  • letterforms are created by objects (Max Greenberg)
  • font choice reflects the content (Afrekka Jefferson, Fred Weston and W. Benjamin Incerti)
  • art appropriates the typography of ads (Bryan Hoffman)
  • words intersect with the image (Robert Farber and Steed Taylor)
  • text creates visual texture and, in doing so, morphs meaning (William Donovan and horea)
  • the mark of the artist’s hand appears and/or the mark of the word disappears (Robert Blanchon, Stephen Andrews and Frank H. Jump)

Moreover, I pondered what do these words say about the public’s response to HIV/AIDS? Do these works speak directly to living with AIDS and/or the way we read art, or do their words engage, ignore or even attack the viewer?

Perhaps Treat My Words can make us all look differently at how we see the words we write.