Highlights from Kramarsky Collection Illuminate How Artists Use Language in Art Since 1960

July 2, 2012



New Brunswick, NJ — This fall the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers explores how artists since 1960 have upended expectations associated with language and artmaking—and, in the process, transformed the art of drawing. On view from Tuesday, September 4, 2012 through Sunday, January 6, 2013, Art=Text=Art: Works by Contemporary Artists features more than 100 works on paper, borrowed primarily from the nation’s foremost drawing collectors, Wynn and Sally Kramarsky. 

The 48 American artists in Art=Text=Art include such now-iconic figures as Trisha Brown, Dan Flavin, Jasper Johns, Sol LeWitt, Ed Ruscha, Richard Serra, Cy Twombly, and Lawrence Weiner, as well as innovative artists at earlier points in their careers. Works range from a spare poem typed by Carl Andre onto an ordinary 8 1/2 by 11 piece of paper in 1960 to a large-scale landscape design that Alice Aycock created in 1986—which on closer scrutiny reveals itself to be a fanciful topiary labyrinth using ancient and modern letterforms of languages ranging from Arabic to Sanskrit.

“Over the course of more than 60 years of studying an extraordinary spectrum of American drawings, the Kramarskys have always shown an intuitive attraction to the intimate processes and experimentation that are inherent in the act of drawing. This exhibition reveals their keen ‘eye,’ and passion for contemporary art,” says Suzanne Delehanty, director of the Zimmerli. 

Art=Text=Art features absolutely seminal pieces that are essential to understanding contemporary art and relationships between art and language,” she continues. “Given the depth of academic resources at Rutgers, this exhibition will spark connections for students through campus-wide discussions and classes in both the humanities and sciences. The Zimmerli will also offer drawings programs for community audiences of all ages to fulfill the museum’s and university’s public service mission.”

“I hope viewers will pause in the exhibition to puzzle out how words have a visual appearance apart from their powerful verbal meanings, how illegibility can often be more eloquent than literal interpretation, or how all data visualization is never a given, but must be constructed,” remarks Marilyn Symmes, the Zimmerli’s Curator of Prints and Drawings and Director of the Morse Research Center for Graphic Arts, who oversaw the museum’s presentation of the Art=Text=Art exhibition.  

Art=Text=Art: Works by Contemporary Artists was organized by the University of Richmond Museums, Virginia, and curated by N. Elizabeth Schlatter, Deputy Director and Curator of Exhibitions, University of Richmond Museums, with Rachel Nackman, Curator, Kramarsky Collection, New York. The presentation at the Zimmerli has been expanded to include a dozen additional works from the Kramarsky Collection, as well as loans of eight drawings that the Kramarskys have donated to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, and the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven.

The Exhibition

Art=Text=Art begins with key examples of modern and contemporary text art of the 1960s by William Anastasi, Andre, LeWitt, Weiner, and Mel Bochner, pioneers of Conceptualism and Minimalism. The exhibition continues with later works by these and many other compelling artists as they explored form, function, and multiple interpretations of language. Bochner is represented by key drawings about systems of measurement and three important print series, notably If the Color Changes…(2003), inspired by a quotation about color by the Austrian-British philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. In The Location of Geometric Figures (A Blue Square, Red Circle, Yellow Triangle, and Black Parallelogram) (1976), LeWitt presents an elegant drawing of linear shapes: within each one, he has hand-written a verbal description for how to draw its shape. This text serves as both a rational explanation of the drawing, as well as tonal shading for each geometric figure.

Jasper Johns’s deep preoccupation with the dual meanings of marks—whether letters or numbers—is reflected in four works in the exhibition, including No (1964), a powerful drawing with remarkable gray tones that subtly puns on the the sound and meaning of the words “know” and the drawing’s title, the word of refusal. Richard Serra’s landmark Verb List (1967-68) presents columns of infinitives across two sheets, emphasizing these phrases as “actions to relate to oneself, material, place and process”—and serving as the artist’s manifesto.

John Waters’s 35 Days (2003), in which the filmmaker makes eloquent art out of his daily "to do" lists, and Ray Johnson’s unique collaged artist's book, BOO[K] (ca. 1955), are among a number of works that demonstrate how artists expanded the definition of drawing by adapting everyday activities and non-traditional materials. Johnson, a pioneer of mail art, even used the postal system for art distribution outside the conventions of the commercial gallery world. Also on display is Johnson’s 20-year mail art exchange with Wynn Kramarsky, a correspondence that began in 1974 and juxtaposes words and images in ways that are simultaneously insightful and perplexing, playful and serious. 

The breadth of this survey is suggested by the inclusion of works as varied as Mark Lombardi’s incredibly complex diagrammatic drawings, mapping secretive financial and political relationships; Jill Baroff’s compelling drawing of concentric circles, wherein the lines indicate tide levels recorded within a precise timeframe; and Christine Hiebert’s deft gestural drawings taking formal inspiration from a series of authentic cattle brands. Jane Hammond’s Scrapbook (2003) offers various images as a puzzle to decipher, while her striking printed collage Four Ways to Blue (2006) was inspired, in part, by Vladimir Nabokov’s writings about butterflies. 

The most recent drawing in Art=Text=Art is Nancy Haynes’s QR for WK by NH (2012), a patterned drawing that actually functions as a digital quick response code for the exhibition’s online catalogue, www.artequalstext.com. This free online catalogue features essays and images of each work in the exhibition, works of fiction, and sound pieces by more than 35 guest contributors, including a national roster of artists, writers, curators and critics, as well as graduate student arts writers.


The exhibition and related programs at the Zimmerli are made possible in part by the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, and donors to the Zimmerli’s Annual Exhibition Fund: Sustainer/ Voorhees Family Endowment; Supporter/ Jerome A. Yavitz Charitable Foundation, Inc. – Stephen Cypen, President. The Zimmerli’s operations, exhibitions, and programs are funded in part by Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey; the Estate of Victoria J. Mastrobuono; the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts; and the donors, members, and friends of the museum.

The showing of Art=Text=Art at the University of Richmond Museums, Virginia, and its accompanying programs were made possible in part by the University of Richmond’s Cultural Affairs Committee, and funds from the Louis S. Booth Arts Fund

The Collection

Art=Text=Art comprises works selected from the New York-based collection of Werner (Wynn) and Sarah-Ann (Sally) Kramarsky. The Kramarskys are widely respected as role models for their dedicated commitment to share their collection and to promote the importance of drawing for learning and stimulating imaginative creativity, as well as to encourage new audiences to be inspired to draw. Selections from the Kramarskys’ distinguished collection have been shown at The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.; the Harvard University Art Museums; the Yale University Art Gallery; public and university art museums in Arkansas, California, Illinois, Maine, and Ohio; and internationally in France, Germany, and Switzerland.

Public Programs

The Art=Text=Art exhibition is the centerpiece for Fall 2012 university and community programs from drawing classes to school tours. Please visit the Zimmerli Art Museum website for further information: www.zimmerlimuseum.rutgers.edu

Wednesday, January 2 / 6:30pm

ART AFTER HOURS: Dance as Drawing: The Arts of Trisha Brown with Jeff Friedman and Keith Thompson

Choreographer, dancer, and visual artist Trisha Brown has been one of the leading figures in American Postmodernism since her first groundbreaking works, such as Walking on the Wall and Roof Piece (both 1971). Two of Brown’s drawings are included in the Zimmerli’s exhibition Art=Text=Art. This lecture and dance demonstration by two leading scholars and performers of modern dance from the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers explores Brown’s fascination with movement of both the body and the graphic line.

ART AFTER HOURS is the eclectic evening series held the first Wednesday of the month at the Zimmerli Art Museum. Each month spotlights a special exhibition or permanent collection highlights with a guided tour, as well as related entertainment and activities. Free to Rutgers students, faculty and staff and museum members.  Others free with museum admission.

Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers

The Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers, founded in 1966, is one of the largest university art museums in United States. The Zimmerli’s permanent collection comprises more than 60,000 works, ranging from ancient to contemporary art and featuring particularly rich holdings in the areas of French art of the 19th century, Russian and Soviet Nonconformist Art, and American and European works on paper, including prints, drawings, photographs, and rare books.

The Zimmerli is midway between New York City and Philadelphia and a short walk from the New Jersey Transit station in New Brunswick.

Location and Hours

The Zimmerli Art Museum is located at 71 Hamilton Street at the corner of George Street on the College Avenue campus of Rutgers University in New Brunswick. Hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 am to 4:30 pm, and Saturday-Sunday, noon to 5 pm; first Wednesdays of each month September through July, 10 am to 9 pm. Admission is $6 for adults; $5 for adults over 65, and free for museum members, Rutgers students, faculty and staff (with ID), and children under 18. Admission is free on the first Sunday of every month. For more information, call 732.932.7237, ext. 610 or visit the museum’s website: www.zimmerlimuseum.rutgers.edu


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