Ekphrasis was an ancient Greek teaching method in which a student of rhetoric was placed before a painting, a sculpture, or a particularly fine krater and asked to describe the object so perfectly that a person who had never seen the work would feel as though they were standing in its presence. In this way, ekphrasis was basis for the first formal analysis and was also one of the earliest forms of art history.
In a certain respect, different types of ekphrasis run throughout the entirety of Art=Text=Art, as the very premise of the show concerns the relationship (or sometimes disconnect) between information communicated as text and information communicated visually. There are both differences and similarities between the ways these two forms convey information, such as the idea of “red” in Carl Andre’s typewriter work red red. Mel Bochner shows 12 inches both visually and in written numbers in 2 (12” x 12”). All of Jasper Johns’s works in this exhibition play with both text and numbers, engaging in a back and forth dialogue with the visual.
Furthermore, ekphrasis can be other forms of translation besides simply the visual/textual exchange. Fittingly, this catalogue is not just a textual/visual catalogue! Check out the musical interpretations of Jón Laxdal, Mary McDonnell and Allyson Strafella‘s work. Frank Badur interprets his own work, Untitled, with a musical piece entitled Different Lines – Different Colours. Lawrence Weiner’s works are turned into poems!
Nathan Langston is composer, writer, and dramaturg for Satellite Ballet & Collective (New York) and writes for the blog Psychopomp Kaleidoscope.