Research: Tate Artist Rooms – ‘Theme: Language’

I found the link had been re-worded on the Tate website, so I’ve included a link here just in case I lose track of it again…


Use of text as art work in it’s own right seen as controversial, birthed on the back of Duchamp’s ready-made’s and seems to go hand in hand with the movement of conceptual art. For me it’s interesting it see these artists in context. I’ve seen some of their work in galleries as I was growing up and not really been shocked by their use of text/language, for me text as art doesn’t seem shocking in and of itself. It’s how it’s used or the content of that text which provides any shock factor. Perhaps though that’s a result of growing up a consumer focused generation.

Artists whose work incorporates or explores text/language:

Sol LeWitt 1928-2007 – first coin’s term ‘conceptual art’ in article ‘Paragraphs on Conceptual Art 1967’.

Laurence Weiner – use of purely text in gallery spaces/walls, focuses on interaction between artwork and viewer or receiver. Work interested in interpretation of language.

Edward Ruscha – focuses on printed word found in mass media and advertising, associated with Pop Art movement. See words as shapes themselves, interested in their form as well as meaning.

Bruce Nauman – works often with Neon sculpture to create pieces which disturb or distort the meaning of everyday phrases.

Martin Creed – minimalist works, again making use of neon signs, but often on a large scale and on buildings rather than within gallery spaces.

Mario Merz – another artist making use of Neon text, but instead focussing on placing these in a juxtaposition with other everyday objects.

Jenny Holzer – first public work emerged 1977-79, described as an installation and conceptual artist. Works with variety of mediums and formats to portray language, from posters, billboards, LED signs, park benches…

Joseph Beuys 1921-1986 – a German artist, seen to use works as a from or activism or call for social reforms.

Richard Long – English sculptor, photographer, painter – associated with Land Art and used text to describe or capture walks and interaction with nature.

Ian Hamilton Finlay 1925-2006 – briefly already introduced to this artist – ‘the concrete poet’.

Cy Twombly 1928-2011 – American artist – painter, printmaker, sculptor, linked to action painting and Abstract expressionist movements. Incorporated a form of handwritten text into works.

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