Contemporary prints use text and language to challenge meaning

John Baldessari, I Saw It, edition 92/100, 1997, lithograph. Courtesy of John Baldessari.

Missoula Current

Fans of modern art in Missoula have three more weeks to tour a selection or prints from contemporary artists at the Montana Museum of Art and Culture at the University of Montana.

The exhibit, “Present Tense: Prints from the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation,” contains a selection of prints that incorporate text or language into the work.

In the past several decades, visual artists have explored language, text and words to address serious social and political issues, such as gender, violence, pollution and racism. They’ve also used language to simply intrigue the viewer.

According to the museum, the use of text in art often compels the viewer to slow down and carefully consider the words, not only their superficial meaning, but also their deeper meaning as symbols of larger ideas.

On display at the Meloy and Paxson Galleries, “Present Tense” includes works by famous contemporary artists, including Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol, who used language to challenge narrative function.

In Lalla Essaydi’s large-scale photograph, “Les Femmes du Maroc No. 35,” the artist’s calligraphy covers every surface in the room, including the subject’s face, hands and feet. Other artists, such as Jenny Holzer or Robert Cottingham, have used letters, words or phrases to make viewers think about shape and meaning in different ways.

Included in the exhibition are works by John Baldessari, Mark Bennett, Mel Bochner, Jonathan Borofsky, Louise Bourgeois, Robert Cottingham, Simon Donaldson, Essaydi, Tony Fitzpatrick, Robert Gober, Jenny Holzer, Julia Jacquette, Chris Johanson, Johns, Barbara Kruger, Silvia Levenson, Glenn Ligon, Allan McCollum, Bruce Nauman, Jim Riswold, Ed Ruscha, Jonathan Seliger, Lorna Simpson and Warhol.

The exhibit is up until Jan. 14.