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Text & Image

Art is looked at—and sometimes can also be read! Individual words and letters, poems, artists’ books or illegible scrawls—how do texts and writing become contemporary art? What can be read, deciphered for content, what remains incomprehensible? And do you always need letters and words to convey a message?

Which texts inspire you right now?

Different texts can be the starting point for artistic production. Poems, pop songs, essays, manifestos—the path from text to image has a long history in the visual arts. Words, literature, poems, but also scientific texts are a source of inspiration for many artists. What is so attractive about a written story or event that we like to draw on it in various media? What lines have you been unable to get out of your head lately?

Artist Factory

Artist Cy Twombly

was born in Lexington, Virginia, USA, in 1928 and died in Rome in 2011.

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Artwork Cy Twombly, Lepanto Cycle, 2001

The “Lepanto” cycle is one of Cy Twombly’s major works and consists of twelve paintings that are exhibited permanently in a separate room at Museum Brandhorst. Vibrant hues in a broad palette of yellows, reds, turquoise and aquamarine define the drama of the monumental paintings. The action on the canvases intensifies, all the artist’s painting tools and painterly gestures are used expressively.

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Artist Jutta Koether

was born in Cologne in 1958.

Which do you prefer: writing or images?

We use writing every day to communicate, describe or record things. It helps us to create structure and order. But sometimes it’s a hassle to decipher other people’s texts, and pictures seem to get to the heart of everything much more directly. Comics use this quite actively, often placing sparse text next to lots of image action. But text can also be the central motif of an image, as in the case of American artist Ed Ruscha. In his word pictures, the words appear as main characters with their own character traits. Have you ever painted a picture made only of letters? What happens between picture and text elements?

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Artwork Cy Twombly, Untitled (New York City), 1968

The dryness of the dark gray picture looks like a slate, its size resembles that of a school blackboard. On it are irregular white lines and light-gray splashes of color. The lines in “Untitled (New York City)” run directly from the left to the right edge of the picture. Each single stroke registers that the artist has walked along the canvas, and how. We can see when he slows down, when the pressure of the chalk eases or intensifies, how short interruptions during the stride create kinks and loops, and how the lines approach each other, touch, and diverge again.

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Artist Ed Ruscha

was born in Omaha, Nebraska, USA, in 1937.

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Artwork Cy Twombly, Nini’s Painting, 1971

In this work, Cy Twombly’s “doodles” with chalk, crayon, and pencil almost look like writing. We even believe we can read individual letters and words from the lines—for example the names Cy and Nini. But the curved lines do not reveal any message.

Title first or work first?

The interplay between text and image is not always just friendly or complementary. Sometimes the two are rivals. Let’s look at different titles of artworks, for example. Often they say “Untitled” or they don’t help you decipher the work; they are not purely descriptive, but have an ambiguous relationship to the work. As for example with Alexandra Bircken, Louise Lawler or Franz West. What is the funniest or most incomprehensible title of a work you have ever heard? What functions do titles serve? Why do they exist at all?

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Artwork Cy Twombly, Untitled („THE MATHEMATICAL DREAM OF ASHURBANIPAL“) (Lexington), 2000

Four boxes, nails, cardboard written in felt-tip pen, white plaster dried mid-flow and a mystical-sounding title. The lower part of the sculpture is made of wood, while three round steps resting on it, somewhat reminiscent of a cake, are made of cardboard. The object is about a meter high and cast with a mixture of plaster, which in turn resembles a kind of glaze.

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Artist Franz West

was born in Vienna in 1947 and died there in 2012.

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Artist Louise Lawler

was born in Bronxville, New York State, USA, in 1947

How varied is your expression?

Do signs always have to be legible or do they express something in other ways? Cy Twombly is known for mixing writing, signs, drawing, lines, and doodles in such a way that viewers are always puzzled as to whether the lines form a word, a letter, a motif, or “just” a line. Before we learn to write, we communicate with gestures—doodles—on paper. Do you think that we already want to express something here? Or is it simply a pure joy in the movement, the color and the trace we leave behind? Or something completely different? Try it out for yourself, how it feels to write without words.

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Artist Jutta Koether

was born in Cologne in 1958.

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Artwork Cy Twombly, Untitled (Roses), 2008

Dripping, flowing color, energetic yellow-orange-red squiggles combined with delicate, spidery handwriting. Four large-scale roses in bloom fill the wooden panels. Only on closer inspection do we notice the many details, especially the poems written by the artist on the canvases. The are part of a series of paintings that Cy Twombly dedicates to the rose.

Creative project Factory

Creative project Write without words

What happens when we try to write without using words?

What power lies in graffiti?

Images and text in public spaces are a well-oiled pair. But painting on walls is not always allowed. That’s why some street artists work at night and face heavy fines if they’re caught spraying and painting. Their condensed text-image messages often have great power. By now, street art has become so popular that some cities allow it in certain places and sometimes even pay artists to do it. Does the message and gesture of graffiti change when it is commissioned or even displayed in a museum? What messages would you like to share colorfully, big and loud with others in your city?

Creative project Factory

Creative project Urban and public!

On the trail of public space - set the scene for your agenda.

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Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat

was born in New York, USA, in 1960 and dies there in 1988.

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Artist Keith Haring

was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, USA, in 1958 and died in New York in 1990.