Los Angeles, A Veritable Font of Type in LA Art Show “Letters from Los Angeles: Text in Southern California Art”

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Creed and Greed, Bruce Richards

Los Angeles has a lot of signage. A friend of mine was visiting recently and said that he’d seen more billboards, especially ones advertising movies, than in any other city he’d visited.  We’ve had the Hollywood[land] sign for almost a century, and our cars (ideally!) keep our eyes constantly aware of our surroundings, making billboards, stops and even other cars the perfect location for words.

Silent films had cards inserted  at key plot points to highlight action or dialog (a used a trope by Quentin Tarantino in Pulp Fiction). Store signage and informational signs blossom in languages as diverse as Thai and Armenian, and our traditional English alphabet takes on new forms in the Vietnamese Quốc Ngữ.

Aside from Warhol and Lichtenstein, the first time I really paid attention text in art–not only because it was being used by my friends at Otis, but because it was truly in my face on a daily basis–was when I lived in a downtown warehouse with a group of arty-type dudes including really an-art-guy Bill Barminski who was painting cowboys with talk balloons and text. Bill and my Otis friends were carrying a tradition in art that was at least as old they were at the time, born out of Pop Art, and that tradition’s foothold on, and influence in, Southern California is huge. No other city refers to itself solely by its initials!

At CARTWHEEL, we cover a lot of art that has text in it: Street art, murals, graffiti art, Pop Surrealism, so “Letters from Los Angeles: Text in Southern California Art” curated by Jack Rutberg  of Jack Rutberg Fine Arts hits a strong chord with everyone here (just check out the related posts below, like Keith Dugas’ look at Rero).

Barminski’s show at Robert Berman  last fall blew me away (see photos below for examples of some of his text play), and I’m excited ot be discovering some of the other artists at in the exhibition, which has been extended at Rutberg Fine Arts and expanded for a special installation at The LA Art Show.

The past couple days I’ve been corresponding with “Letter from Los Angeles” artist  Bruce Richards who kindly gave CARTWHEEL permission to use a detail of his Circumlocution to illustrate our post on The LA Art Show panels, which will feature a discussion of text in Southern California art, moderated by Jack Rutberg, designed to compliment and expand upon the exhibition. Richards also kindly sent me photos of his some work which will be in the show, along with an explanation for Creed & Deed  which shows the depth that text can take, more than just words, each letter becomes a symbol, taking the viewer deeper (top):

The paintings were done in 2009 when Bibles and guns were brought to anti-Obama rallies. The juxtaposition of these two elements created these works. My fear of an assassination on the president is represented by the bullet holes in the “O”s also the 0’s are ciphers, placeholders for the numbers kill by guns.

Bruce explains War Memorial (above) writing:

War Memorial, 2009, oil on linen with carved frame, the frame is a laurel wreath for the victor.

And now here’s my old housemate, Bill Barminski’s take on text:


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