Using Language in Art

Language itself appears in two forms: the spoken form and the written form.  To utilize words in an art piece actually helps to accentuate  central ideas.  Artists employ a variety of linguistic tools in their repertoire.  Some artists use semiotics which tests the visual representation against the thing which is meant to be signified.

Semiotics: the study of symbols and their meanings.

Words are powerful tools for the visual artist.  Using words can articulate complex ideas and embody abstractions to supply cognitive content to the viewer.  Sometimes artists even use words to decode the structure of language itself.

Blah, Blah, Blah, painting by Mel Bochner

The words or “signs” denote a meaning which is not explicit. Although words mean something different to someone who understands the language the artist uses words in a totally alien context almost rendering them foreign.

Take for instance this art piece by Jean Michel Basquiat.  He writes a word down and then he crosses it out.  This could be said to give the word even more importance for its intentional omission. Their omission gives them new meaning and importance in the context of the image.  titian 2

When you put words in an art piece you can articulate complex ideas and embody abstractions that may lie dormant.  This is because the words themselves supply the cognitive context which causes the viewer to pay attention for longer.