Kay Rosen: H is for House
Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, CT
H Is for House is Kay Rosen’s first solo museum exhibition in the northeast in almost twenty years. This exhibition premieres a series of new works, all painted in black and white, which the artist has completed since 2015. Rosen’s text-based works use formalism, linguistics, and humor to reveal content that is hidden within both the structural nature of written language and the ways in which meaning can be generated through the manipulation of text. The exhibition will include fourteen works on paper, as well as two monumental wall paintings, the largest incorporating two walls and covering over 700 square feet. Rosen approaches written language as structure, with words and letterforms functioning as building blocks, and where, through unusual typographic arrangements, words and phrases can embody the thing they are describing. Rosen has created these new wall paintings to play off the interior space of the Museum, using the existing architecture to amplify each work’s content. Similarly, the vertical “architecture” of the paper works sets up a space for the text to play off, guiding meaning, letter orientation and size, and number of lines. Turning architect Louis Sullivan’s dictum that “form follows function” on its head, Rosen’s works take the forms inherent in text to create new functions for the written word.
The title H Is for House references both the alphabet—the raw material of Rosen’s work—and the architectural nature of the works included in the exhibition. The vertical portrait format relates both to the figure and the pull of gravity, and the atypical disruptions of the text have the curious quality of effecting bodily orientation, with the viewer’s eyes being put into the position of twisting to accommodate the off-kilter compositions. Related to, but different from the genre of concrete poetry, Rosen’s wordplays creatively reinforce the relationship between form and meaning.