Word and Image: Lettrisme

Alain SatiƩ Untitled, ca. 1973
Sep 01, 2006 - Mar 18, 2007
European Galleries

Lettrisme, a Parisian movement begun in the 1940s, focused on the visual dimensions of language. It was based on the concept that conventional language failed to adequately transmit individual energies and desires and should be replaced by “fluctuating letters” disentangled from their usual meanings and contexts, enabling them to retain “suggestions” and “fleeting evocations.” 

Exploring this notion, Lettriste artists investigated the relationships between spoken, written, and visual codes in a range of visual and literary media that included painting, sculpture, poetry, film, and the novel. Lettrisme began as a poetic movement but ultimately came to serve as the basis of a literary theory that expanded the meaning of the letter, emphasized its visual nature, and released it from its strictly verbal associations.

Alain Satié

Untitled, ca. 1973


One of the original artworks featured in Isidore Isou, Introduction à un traité de mathématiques (Paris, PSI, 1972)

Collection Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers