Art and Alphabet

Paulina Olowska, Alphabet, 2005, 3 of 26 coloured cards (for each letter of the alphabet), 4 b/w cards with poems by Frances Stark, Josef Strau, Paulus Mazur Edition 100 + X AP, Creditline: Courtesy Galerie Buchholz, Berlin/Cologne/New York

Press information

Press conference: Thursday, 20 July 2017, 11 a.m.
Opening: Thursday, 20 July 2017, 7 p.m.
Hamburger Kunsthalle, Gallery of Contemporary Art, 2nd and 3rd floors

The complex interrelation of script and image in contemporary art is the focus of the large-scale exhibition Art and Alphabet, taking place across two floors of the Hamburger Kunsthalle’s Gallery of Contemporary Art. On view will be works in a variety of media by 22 international artists from 15 different countries that deal with elements of a broad range of languages and writing systems, exploring their impact as visual signs, expanding on them, and transforming them artistically.

Whether in painting, drawing, sculpture, film, video, photography, installations, or performative works: we observe here how artists manipulate various alphabets (Armenian, Arabic, Latin, etc.) and challenge their potency for lending a cultural identity. Text is overlaid to the point of being illegible, or is atomized into its constituent elements; handwritten passages take on a life of their own as vibrant, powerful lines of energy; and letters are intoned and thus translated into sound units or enacted in body language. This creates a tension-charged back-and-forth oscillation between the decoding and reading of text versus the perception and contemplation of imagery.

Presented are artworks from the last ten years, with a few groups of works created specifically for the show. A bridge to the past is created by a few works from the 1960s and 70s interspersed throughout the exhibition.


Participating artists:

Mounira Al Solh, Richard Artschwager, John Baldessari, Michael Bauch, Marcel Broodthaers, Natalie Czech, Ayşe Erkmen, Friederike Feldmann, Mekhitar Garabedian, Petrit Halilaj, Camille Henrot, Katie Holten, Bethan Huws, Janice Kerbel, Karl Larsson, Rivane Neuenschwander, Paulina Olowska, Martha Rosler, Michael Sailstorfer, Harald Stoffers, Ignacio Uriarte, Philippe Vandenberg


Education and outreach concept:

The Hamburger Kunsthalle has developed a new education and outreach concept especially for this  exhibition in order to make its contents more accessible to a broad group of visitors. Works can be perceived by different senses (vision, hearing, touch, smell). Special emphasis has been placed on access to the artworks by blind and partially sighted people, but the concept expressly invites all other visitors as well to experience the exhibition in all its diversity. Visitors with a wide variety of needs will benefit from the education stations, the vivid descriptions of the images and the acoustic guided tour through the exhibition. This offering has been made possible by the Malschule in der Hamburger Kunsthalle e.V.

A booklet of texts and illustrations as well as ten colour postcards accompanied the exhibition (German/English, 78 pages), edited by Brigitte Kölle. The publication is out of stock.