21st Century Cyphers

 Karla Kinght Web

May 12 - July 7

21st Century Cyphers is a group exhibition about the phenomenon of language in the technological age. It brings together visual artists who use both written and spoken language structures in their work through translation, abbreviated means of communication such as symbols and glyphs, and visually coded ways of conveying information. Using a variety of processes that include painting, sculpture, digital and new media, installation and sound, the works on view in this exhibition highlight language itself as a diverse medium to be explored, dissected and reframed to reflect the nuances of communication in the 21st century.

Curator Claude Smith, 516 ARTS’ Exhibitions and Fulcrum Fund Manager, is known for helping artists and curators plan and install exhibitions. This exhibition gives him the opportunity to share his own ideas inspired by a life-long interest in language and code. His mother used to write shorthand, dictating messages in law offices, which captured his imagination about the subject early on. He says, “Contemporary language is a complex melting pot of syntax, emotion and expression. It has become increasingly common to express our feelings visually, due in part to the frequency in which our daily correspondences are mediated by a screen. We now conveniently have immediate access to entire dictionaries or repositories of alternative language signifiers. Textual abbreviations, symbols, glyphs, memes, gifs and even video/sound clips are ready for deployment as clever substitutions.”

The artists in 21st Century Cyphers explore these notions, using language and words as the basis for literal compositional structure as well as creating new systems for communication that reflect a growing hybridization with technology and a desire to locate oneself within that expanding universe of possibility. Featured artists from across the country include: John Phillip Abbott (NM), Gina Adams (KN), Mirtha Dermisache (Argentina) Bart Exposito (NM), Asuka Goto (NY), Sky Hopinka (WI), Nina Katchadourian (NY), Karla Knight (CT), Matt Magee (AZ), Guillermo Gomez-Peña & Enrique Chagoya (CA), Hayal Pozanti (NY), Walter Robinson (NM) and Joel Swanson (CO).

In 21st Century Cyphers, new and invented languages have been created by referencing symbols, alphabets and glyphs. For example, Karla Knight’s graphic diagrams of imaginary language are both simultaneously ancient and futuristic. Turkish-born artist Hayal Pozanti’s large-scale site-specific mural painted on the entrance wall of 516 ARTS addresses the contemporary human–machine relationship featuring her invented alphabet as a way to communicate meaning in response to increasingly common issues of privacy and encryption. Matt Magee, whose minimalist site-specific mural, painted on an interior wall of 516 ARTS, recreates a grapheme, or the smallest unit of writing system of any given language, resulting in a patterned, code-like visual chart of dots and dashes. Nina Katchadourian’s video Talking Popcorn asks the question “What language do machines speak?” Using a popcorn popper outfitted with a custom computer, the sound of popcorn popping is translated to Morse Code and spoken aloud by a computerized voice.

New Mexico based artists include John Phillip Abbott, whose colorful text paintings are derived from memory or personal experience and use words as a trigger to offer multiple translations or implied meanings to the viewer. Bart Exposito’s exacting paintings reflect an interest in typography and design as well as the building blocks of letters. And Walter Robinson makes use of text to create witty arrangements of words in game-like puzzles or palindromic configurations that address trending topics in contemporary culture. 


Image Gallery 

Image credits from top left:

Karla Knight, Red Spaceship (UR OM UM OX UH), 2018, Colored pencil and graphite on paper, 50 x 90 inches, Courtesy of the Artist

Hayal Pozanti, 81 (Percentage of CEOs with high intuition scores who doubled their business in five years), 2016, Acrylic on canvas, 60 x 60 inches; courtesy the artist and Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco, CA

Gina Adams, Treaty of Guadalupe Hildago 1848 Broken Treaty Quilt (detail), 2018, hand cut calico letters and cotton thread on antique quilt, 85 x 80 inches  

Joel Swanson, Zapf Dingbats Revolved Around Their “Y” Axis (detail), 2015, 3D printed plastic, 2 x 2 inches; courtesy David B. Smith Gallery, Denver, CO

Walter Robinson, Tartan Wordcross (Cruel Truth), 2011, Mdf, epoxy, metalflake, 48 x 48 x 1.5 inches; courtesy the artist and Turner Carroll Gallery, Santa Fe, NM

Asuka Goto, lost in translation (installation detail), pencil and collage on paper, 10 x 13 inches 

Matt Magee, Meme 5, 2017, ink on mulberry paper, 15 x 10 inches; courtesy the artist and Richard Levy Gallery, Albuquerque, NM

John Phillip Abbott, Datsun, 2017, acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 66 x 62 inches

Bart Exposito, Untitled, 2018, Acrylic and Charcoal on Paper, 21 x 29 inches

Sky Hopinka, Visions of an Island (still), video, total run time 15:00

Nina Katchadourian, Talking Popcorn (still), 2017, video total run time 2:28 minutes; courtesy the artist and Catherine Clark Gallery, San Francisco, CA

Mirtha Dermisache, Sin título (texto) from Mirtha Dermisache Selected Writings,128 pages, Siglio Press | Ugly Duckling © 2017