Ecstatic Alphabets/Heaps of Language

Tauba Auerbach. How to Spell the Alphabet. 2005 – Shannon Ebner. RAW WAR. 2004 – Bruce Nauman. Raw War. 1970 – Experimental Jetset. Zang Tum Tum. If You Want It. 2003

Ecstatic Alphabets/Heaps of Language explores the material qualities of language in contemporary art across a wide range of mediums. The exhibition looks at some of the ways contemporary artists have experimented with language, freeing it from the page and from its communicative and descriptive duties.

The contemporary works featured in this exhibition belong to a distinguished history of
poem/objects and concrete language experiments dating to the beginnings of modernism, and
include both Futurist and Dada objects as well as Neo-Dada experiments of the late 1950s, and works that sprang from international literary movements like concrete and sound poetry in Europe, Latin America, and the United States. This history is presented in the form of a timeline of objects in many mediums that tell a story of concrete language in visual art.
Artists in this historical section of the exhibition include: Carl Andre, Marcel Broodthaers, Henri Chopin, Marcel Duchamp, Ian Hamilton Finlay, John Giorno, Kitasono Katue, Ferdinand Kriwet, Liliane Lijn, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Bruce Nauman, Lawrence Weiner, and others.
Artists in the contemporary section of the exhibition include: Ei Arakawa/Nikolas Gambaroff, Tauba Auerbach, Dexter Sinister (David Reinfurt and Stuart Bailey), Trisha Donnelly, Shannon Ebner, Paul Elliman, Experimental Jetset, Sharon Hayes, Karl Holmqvist, Paulina Olowska, Adam Pendleton, and Nora Schultz.

Although they are similar in inspiration, the contemporary works in Ecstatic Alphabets/Heaps of Language represent a radical updating of the concrete language experiments of the 20th century. Moving freely among disciplines, the contemporary artists in this exhibition function simultaneously as poets, writers, performers, and graphic designers, producing hybrid works of art in which the letter, the word, and the phrase are transcribed into sounds, symbols, pictures, or patterns, scrambled, negated, and most importantly, freed from the page and, in some cases, the duties of communication altogether.

Ecstatic Alphabets/Heaps of Language is accompanied by a publication designed and produced by Dexter Sinister that includes text by Ms. Hoptman, reproductions of works in the exhibition, and an exhibition checklist. The publication also exists as an issue of the composite printed and electronic publication Bulletins of the Serving Library, a continuing series published twice-yearly by Dexter Sinister.

May 6–August 27, 2012
MoMA, New York

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