Archive for the ‘Language in art’ Category

Three on Mothers Day

May 11, 2014

This morning’s crop of cartoons with some linguistic interest: a Rhymes With Orange that is, among other things, about Mothers Day; a Mother Goose and Grimm with, in passing, an interesting example of out as a preposition; and a Doonesbury on outsider / folk art.

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Barbara Kruger

November 24, 2012

On the op-ed page of the NYT today, this Barbara Kruger piece (“For Sale”) to celebrate the great American commercial holiday of Black Friday (yesterday):

I was astonished to discover that I hadn’t posted about Kruger before. Time to remedy this.

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LOLcats and captions

December 18, 2011

From Corry Wyngaarden va Chris Ambidge, a link to a recording (with slides) of “I can has language play: Construction of Language and Identity in LOLspeak”, a presentation by Jill Vaughan and Lauren Gawne at the Australian Linguistics Society annual conference 2011: a paper on LOLcats as language play and as construction of double identities, as a cat and as a savvy internet user.

The LOLcat genre displays text (usually in a characteristic font) associated with cute cat photos (or in later developments, other photos, as here). Though it’s displayed as a caption, the text, with its language play, is the point.

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Conceptual art

February 20, 2011

In the NYT recently (in my print edition yesterday, on line earlier), Holland Cotter’s review of a show by Luis Camnitzer:

The show, at El Museo del Barrio, is terse, almost to the vanishing point in places, as might be expected from one of the pioneers of 1960s Conceptualism. Much of what’s here is based on printed language: cryptic propositions, random lists of words and descriptive phrases — unmoored from, or very loosely tethered to, other spare-to-barely-there visual matter.

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From the Simon Drew pun files

June 20, 2010

Having mentioned Simon Drew‘s pun art twice recently (here and here), I thought to scare up some examples I could put on-line, and found a trove of them on the site of Drew’s American distributor (his U.K. site is here). The following examples will give you a sense of his artistic style, and also his sense of humor.

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Puns in polyresin

June 20, 2010

Lots of artists like to play with language — see, most recently, my posting on puns in cartoons — and now we have a sculptor doing what amounts to punning cartoons in polyresin. This is Marsha Tosk, who says on her Figures in Speech website:

“Figures in Speech,” my new series in hand painted polyresin and found material [AMZ: comma missing here as a result of an incredibly common -- mistaken, but entirely understandable -- idea that the final comma in non-restrictive modifiers isn't really necessary*] originated in September 2008 as a response to the economic downturn. The figurative, realistic work is based on my belief that humor is an antidote to tough times.

In this series the humor stems from fun with the use of language, a sculptural visualization of a play on words. Pig in a Blanket is the first piece in the group of sculptures which include Bagels and Locks, Hot Dog, Holy Cow, Tee and Lemon and Peeking Duck. Soon to come: Flying off the Handle.

(The website is fixed so that you can’t copy and paste text, much less images, so you’ll have to go to the site for the full text and the illustrations. Click on the titles at the bottom of Tosk’s Figures page to get full images. The Figures homepage gives you a slide show.)

The pieces aren’t cheap, even in these economic-downturn times (but then artists deserve to get paid for their labors; yes, I know, as an artist myself, I’m biased in these matters): the prices for the six sculptures listed are, in order, $850, $850, $1250, $750, $1500, $950. Plus $35 for shipping and handling.

What size are they? you ask. Two feet or under in the greatest dimension. Nothing that would consume a room.

There is, of course, a Wikipedia page on visual puns, some of which have language explicitly attached to them, as with Tosk’s sculptures (and Simon Drew’s wonderful drawings); in others, the linguistic expressions involved are merely implicit.

*It all depends on what you mean by “necessary”. The closing comma is necessary in non-restrictive modifiers according to the conventions of standard English orthography. Very often, however, it’s not necessary to convey the semantics and intonation of these modifiers, which can be easily supplied by the reader; that’s why it’s so frequently omitted, even in edited prose. Examples are only too easy to collect. Here’s one from 2009:

Upon his return to Europe he sought to share his discoveries with the learned community, but was met with ridicule—as Phillip von Hohenheim, aka Paracelsus (1493-1541) would also be a century later. (Arthur Goldwag, Cults, Conspiracies, and Secret Societies, p. 304)


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