Images: Savage, I’m a Fraud, 2010, Lambda digital photographic print, 15 ¾ x 15 ¾ inches, courtesy of the artist; Ronan McCrea, Everything (multi-coloured neon version) Boxed, 2000, neon and cardboard box, 16 1/2 x 15 ¾ x 15 ¾, courtesy of the artist and Green on Red Gallery, Dublin.
Exhibition design: Anthony Gross.

144 West 14th Street
New York, NY 10011

Gallery hours:
Tuesday-Saturday  11 AM-6 PM

Pratt Institute

A large-scale exhibition that looks at the diverse and evolving ways in which a third generation of artists have employed text in art over the past 10 years or so.

February 25-May 7, 2011
Opening reception:
Thursday, February 24, 6-8 PM
Free and open to the public.

Guest curators: Dave Beech and Paul O’Neill

Can Altay
Simon Bedwell
David Blamey
Pavel Büchler
The Complaints Choir (Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen)
Goran Djordjevic
Ben Fitton
Freee art collective (Dave Beech, Andy Hewitt, and Mel Jordan)
Jaime Gili and Luis Romero (Editors)
Liam Gillick
Goll & Nielsen
Anthony Gross
Lucy Gunning
Jeanne van Heeswijk and the Employees of SUS
Matthew Higgs
Karl Holmqvist
Toby Huddlestone
Mark Hutchinson
Matt Keegan
Annette Krauss
Pierre Léguillon
Gareth Long
Nanna Lysholt-Hansen
Ronan McCrea
Jonathan Monk
Simon Morris
Graham Parker
Sarah Pierce
Falke Pisano
Plastique Fantastique (David Burrows and Simon O’Sullivan)
Elizabeth Price
Nick Thurston
Bik Van der  Pol
Ian Whittlesea
Mick Wilson
Carey Young

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Pratt Manhattan Gallery | Pratt Manhattan Gallery | 144 West 14th St | New York | NY | 10011

Press Release
We Are Grammar

Curated by Dave Beech & Paul O’Neill

Pratt Manhattan Gallery, 144 West 14th Street, 2nd floor, New York, NY 10011, T (212) 647-7778
Dates – Feb 25th – May 7th, 2011
Opening – Feb 24th 6-8pm

Artists include:

Can Altay/ Simon Bedwell/ Bik Van der Pol/ David Blamey/ Pavel Büchler/ Declan Clarke/ The Complaints Choir (Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen)/ Goran Djordjevic/ Ben Fitton/ Freee Art Collective/ Jaime Gili & Luis Romero (editors of Tipos Moviles)/ Liam Gillick/ Goll & Nielsen/ Anthony Gross/ Lucy Gunning/ Jeanne van Heeswijk and emploees of Sus/ Matthew Higgs/ Karl Holmqvist/ Toby Huddlestone/ Mark Hutchinson/ Matt Keegan/ Annette Krauss/ Pierre Leguillon/ Gareth Long/ Nanna Lysholt-Hansen/ Ronan McCrea/ Jonathan Monk/ Simon Morris/ Tone O Nielsen/ Graham Parker/ Sarah Pierce/ Falke Pisano/ Plastique Fantastique (David Burrows and Simon O’Sullivan)/ Elizabeth Price/ Savage/ Nick Thurston/ Ian Whittlesea/ Mick Wilson/ Carey Young…

We Are Grammar is a large-scale exhibition of third generation Text Art. Over the past decade, this new mode of Text Art has emerged, which claims neither to have inaugurated art’s linguistic turn, nor to have treated the use of language within art as something already historical. Text Art is no longer defended as a special case, nor has it been completely incorporated into the institutions of art. Rather, its value and potential is acknowledged by a wide spectrum of contemporary artists who freely combine the use of text with performance, installation, video, photography, drawing, painting, sculpture and printmaking. We Are Grammar is a large-scale exhibition which looks at the diverse and evolving ways in which artists have employed text in art over the past ten years. It takes a layered approach to exhibition-making, with an overall spatial and curatorial structure of interconnected and overlapping, yet semi-autonomous, works by over forty contemporary artists.

Contemporary Text Art finds itself located at the intersection of philosophy, current thinking on art and contemporary theories of language. It is an art in step with the linguistic turn in philosophy – from Wittgenstein to Derrida and from JL Austin to Judith Butler – which replaces speculations about the mind with an analysis of language use. Language cannot be considered merely as a specialized sphere, separated from the social life of things and events. To understand a language is to understand a way of life; to interrogate language is to interrogate the social and cultural landscape, the grammar of lived experience. An art made of language is not an art limited to language, but necessarily – by virtue of the properties of language – it is an art that draws us into questions about how we think, how we live, how we judge, how we feel, how we differ and how we try to resolve our differences.

The linguistic turn in philosophy has been thoroughly incorporated into art theory, and, even if the term Text Art has gone out of fashion, the use of text in art has spread like wildfire. Contemporary Text Art commands a prominent place within our post-Duchampian understanding of what art is and what makes it compelling. Duchamp’s legacy is vital to the ontology of art, which leads to, and then feeds the development of, Text Art and turns on the ‘act of nomination’ and language in this process. Initiated by Duchamp, this linguistic turn is redoubled within Conceptualism, which replaced art’s preoccupation with crafting a unique object with nominations, texts and conversations.

Titling, commentary and an entire arsenal of secondary information enter the field of artistic practice, displacing what had previously been considered paramount – namely the art object and its traces of the artistic subject. Art after Conceptualism not only places language at its heart, but it also retrospectively highlights the function of language for pre-Duchampian art (as supplement, beyond the now-contested frame) in titles, explanations, art history, criticism, and so forth. The emergence of the post-Cartesian artist and what may be called the post-Duchampian ontology of art, is not merely a description of events – Conceptual Art’s turn to language – but it theorizes the centrality of language for all art after Duchamp and Conceptualism. That is to say, the re-skilling that follows the displacement of handcraft is linguistic in the widest sense – conceptual, discursive, theoretical, archival, managerial, organizational and curatorial.

Textual items have always appeared in art, but it wasn’t until the 1960s that artworks consisted primarily of text. As such, text established itself as a legitimate presence in art, as its own genre or medium. While this manifestation could be considered to constitute the first generation of Text Art, a second generation of text began to appear, during the 1980s and 1990s as postmodernists combined text with other elements in their eclectic art of quotation. Thus, text was again present in contemporary art, but without any of the fanfare, controversy or heroics that marked its emergence in Conceptual Art during the 1960s. For the first time, it was possible for an artist to produce a one-off text work without committing to Text Art as a practice or to becoming a Text artist.

Performance, video, installation and temporary works are rarely experienced first-hand (as was typical of the modernist encounter with the art object), instead they are mediated by photographs and other documents, including descriptions, instructions, certificates, and contracts. This leads to the question posed by Martha Buskirk: ‘Does the work of authorship lie in the material object, or in the plans and instructions for its realization?’ This question has become central to our consideration of much of contemporary art today and what now constitutes the contingent object of art.

Once such secondary modes had established themselves as legitimate components of the artwork, the whole thing had to be turned around again. Consequently, much of the work included in We Are Grammar avoids the kind of propositional statements that were typical of the first generation of Text Art. Indeed, much of the work in this exhibition does not include text as a visual or visible component. Rather, the work is characterized by a shared structure within linguistic practices, being dependent on linguistic forms, mediated by linguistic exchange, engaging with the processes of nomination, documentation, rule-following and so on. In many cases, then, language is no longer the ‘face’ of third generation Text Art, but it sits in the background, occupying a role that is more like grammar than enunciation. Text Art no longer necessarily looks like text art; it has become a field of operations and a network of practices that we just call art.