Unmute: Text and Images in American Art 1970-2000

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Exhibit: Traveling show opens at Mesa Public Library next week

Mesa Public Library Art Gallery, with support from the Friends of Los Alamos County Libraries, will host a traveling exhibition that explores the theme of how text and image developed new relationships in 20th century art, including the closest form of that relationship, the artist’s book.
The event is from 4-5:30 p.m. Oct. 5 and is part of the Arts Crawl Evening, which includes the Los Alamos Historical Museum, Fuller Lodge Art Center and Karen Wray Fine Art.
The exhibition includes many examples of artist’s books but also other works in a wide range of media as well. Works by 52 artists, many of world renown, provide a strong showing of how text and image combine to make visually and intellectually compelling art. Sol Lewitt, Joyce Kozloff, Hans Haacke, Melissa Grimes, Jaune Quick to See Smith, Pat Steir, Carrie Mae Weems, to name a few, are among those artists whose work is included in the exhibit, one so fitting to be shown in a library. New Mexico institutions have treasures in their collections, a resource to share across the state and across institutional venues for all New Mexicans and visitors to enjoy.
“Unmute” asks, how do we achieve a transcendent aesthetic experience in a lightning-fast, disposable age, when information is consumed at a rate of a thousand clicks per day? The photographs, prints, artists’ books and mixed media works in this exhibition deny an instant read; they skim at the risk of missing vital information about the work. Regardless of quantity or legibility of the text included in these art works they all, in varying degrees, trigger what cultural critic W.J.T. Mitchell calls the “infinite reverie activated by the density of the image and the legend.”
The 52 artists included here have turned up the volume, so to speak, adding linguistic signs to the “mute” images they create. The history of visual culture has many precedents for image/texts and the works in this exhibit connect to a long tradition combining systems of signs dating back to the Egyptian papyrus, medieval illuminated manuscript, Mesoamerican codices and even modern comic books.
But in the context of the current visual culture, which is dominated by digital images and web browsing, new meanings for the terms “icon” and “scroll” are being discovered. “UNMUTE” demonstrates that the mingling of verbal and visual sign systems is as cogent as ever.
The exhibit will be on view through Nov. 28 during regular library hours. For more information, visit losalamosnm.us/library.