Research point #2 – Notes on the use of text in art

This article on the Tate website gives an introduction to the use of text and language in art during the twentieth and the early twenty first centuries. I’m taking some notes with a brief record of points to consider for future investigation. The bold characters in the text are mine.

For every point made in the article I jot down my notes after the arrow —>


Main concepts

‘The use of letters and words in artworks is traditionally associated with authorship – the artist’s signature or inscription, often towards bottom of a painting or drawing’. —> question of authorship in contemporary work, what’s the role of individual artistic expression today, is technical skill still important?

‘Works form the early twentieth century where appropriated words, letters and symbols were increasingly incorporated, such as Francis Picabia’s The Fig-Leaf 1922 and Kurt Schwitters’s Mz.299 1922, reflected the emerging avant-garde movements of the time.’  —> use of texts in collage and mixed media artworks in Cubism, Futurism etc.

‘This period also saw an increasing presence of the printed word in the urban landscape and the developing sophistication of marketing and advertising.’ —> connections between use of text in fine art and advancement of popular culture and mass-media, Pop art development

‘Picabia, Schwitters and Marcel Duchamp were all associated with the dada movement and rejected traditional art materials, processes and subjects through the appropriation of found objects, known as ready-mades. …  By the time Duchamp had created Fountain he had already defined ‘the artist’ as someone able to rethink the world and remake meaning through language.’ —>  role of the artist in ready mades (Notes and sources on Marcel DuchampExercise 1 – Fountain by Marcel Duchamp)

‘ … it was Sol LeWitt who first coined the term ‘conceptual art’ in the article Paragraphs on Conceptual Art, 1967. LeWitt, along with the text-based artists Joseph Kosuth, Art & Language, Hamish Fulton and Richard Long, represented a fundamental strand in the conceptual art movement. Text and language became a crucial vehicle for artists challenging the notion that an artwork should consist of a physical object.’ —> relationship between conceptual art and use of text and language.

‘Conceptual art represented a shift towards ideas and systems that invited the viewer to engage with an intellectual concept, art became increasingly ephemeral and transient – famously described by Duchamp as the “dematerialisation of the art object”.’ —> connection between conceptual art and installation art.



Artists mentioned on Tate website in connection to text and language in art


Early twentieth century:

Marcel Duchamp Notes and sources on Marcel Duchamp

Francis Picabia

Kurt Schwitters


Conceptual art movement:

Sol Levitt

Joseph Kosuth

Art & Language

Hamish Fulton

Richard Long

Lawrence Weiner

Edward Ruscha

Bruce Nauman

Martin Creed

Mario Merz

Jenny Holzer

Joseph Beuys

Richard Long

Ian Hamilton Finlay

Cy Twombly

John smith

Raymond Pettibon

John Baldessari

Dan Graham

Mel Bochner






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