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More Than Words in "Language as Medium"

K. Samantha Sigmon

At a time when words bombard us on a 24-hour news cycle and social media, Language as Medium, which closed December 7th at the University of Arkansas Fine Arts Gallery, is a tightly-executed exhibition featuring eight artists. A quick walkthrough might not make an impact or the threads through the works’ selection clear; viewers need quality time to let each work seep in. From one piece to another, it becomes apparent that the small stuff matters. Words are fragmented, blotted out, deceptively dismissive. These objects ask you to think little of them, but upon further contemplation, reveal deeper significance.

For instance, Dana Frankfort’s works—And Yet, splotchy black and white words, and More than Words, golden words like contrails fading in and out on a blue-sky background—are almost like blank pages for us to fill in the rest of these common phrases with our own stories. Similarly, Mel Bochner’s Blah Blah Blah, raised and multi-colored, uses this non-word as a filler for a memory that we just glossed over, but here it is physically in front of us. Alicia Eggert references Donald Rumsfield’s infamous 2002 statement about weapons in Iraq and (un)known (un)knowns. In the light work Known, Unknown, “known” stays lit, but the “un” flashes and alternates. This changes not only the look of the work, but constantly confuses the message.

Taken together, Language as Medium celebrates the playfulness of words, letters, shapes, and meaning. Its artworks tell us that language is fragmented, messy, beautiful, complex, and fun, all at once. 

Dana Frankfort, More Than Words. 2013. Acrylic and oil on linen over panel. 48 x 48 in.

Mel Bochner, Blah, Blah, Blah. 2014. Monoprint with collage, engraving, and embossing on hand-dyed Twin Rocker handmade paper. 15x151/2 in.

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