‘The Written Word’ on display at USD

The Written WordBy Travis Gulbrandson


The written word has increasingly become a focus of modern art.

It’s also the theme of an exhibition that opened Monday in the John A. Day Gallery on the campus of the University of South Dakota.

“The Written Word” features the work of five artists who create using word-based texts: Elissa Levy, Karen Baldner with Björn Krondorfer, Trong Nguyen, Nina Katchadourian and An Xiao.

“These artists are exploring materials,” said Alison Erazmus, Director of the University Art Galleries. “They’re not just taking a book and altering it, they’re using newspapers and putting texts and translating that to grains of rice, they’re using Twitter feeds as a way to examine the written word in digital media.

“It’s definitely what I would consider a very contemporary show in the sense that artists are really exploring a variety of materials to understand and explore the written word,” Erazmus said.

Levy was on-hand at Monday’s opening to discuss her work and meet students and members of the public.

“It was really exciting to have a big group of students,” Erazmus said. “I think at least 70 to 75 were in the gallery looking at the artwork.”

Word-based art has been growing in popularity, both with the public and the artists themselves, Erazmus said.

“A lot of artists are very good researchers, so obviously, that comes with reading quite a bit,” she said. “From my perspective, I see a lot of artists referencing books and texts, and creating signs, using words in their own artwork as an expression of visual art.

“This (exhibition) is more explicitly connected to writing and the written word,” she said. “Either it’s already been produced, or the artists are generating their own writing. It’s definitely focused on that.”

Some artists even use existing books in their pieces, as in “Bound and Unbound II,” an altered book exhibition that is on display in I.D. Weeks Library through Friday, Dec. 20.

“Either artists make their own books … or they’re taking books that have been withdrawn, thrown away, and repurposing them and making them into a visual art object,” Erazmus said.

In addition to the art on display, USD graduate students also will perform a piece of Xiao’s called, “Together/Alone” at 2-5 p.m. on Nov. 8 and Nov. 15, as well as from 5-7:30 p.m. on Nov. 22.

Erazmus will lead a gallery discussion for the Boos in Context Series hosted by the Vermillion Public Library at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 21, at the Day Gallery.

These events are free and open to the public.

“The Written Word” will be on display through Nov. 24.

For more information, visit www.usd.edu/uag.

About the Artists:

  • Levy lives and works in New York City, and is a visiting artist with an upcoming artist residency at the Scottish Sculpture Workshop.
  • Baldner is from West Germany, and is an associate professor at the Herron School of Art and Design in Indianapolis, IN, where she teaches book arts. She collaborates with Krondorfer, and has received funding for her work from Fulbright grants and National Endowment for the Arts.
  • Nguyen was born in Vietnam and works in New York City. He exhibits his work throughout the world, including at the New York’s Fruit + Flower Deli and in Ho Chi Minh City at Galerie Quynh.
  • Katchadourian is a faculty member at the NYU Gallatin School of Individualized Study. She is represented by Catharine Clark Gallery in San Francisco and has exhibited at the PS1/MoMA, the Serpentine Gallery and Saatchi Gallery.
  • Xiao is an American artist, designer, writer and technologist who looks at the politics and growing role of Internet culture in countries like China, Uganda and the United States.
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