The Visible Word: Experimental Typography and Modern Art, 1909-1923 / Edition 2

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Early in this century, Futurist and Dada artists developed brilliantly innovative uses of typography - including visual poems and collages of words and letters - that blurred the boundaries between visual art and literature. In The Visible Word, Johanna Drucker shows how later art criticism and literary theory has distorted our understanding of such works. She argues that Futurist, Dadaist, and Cubist artists emphasized materiality as the heart of their experimental approach to both visual and poetic forms of representation; by midcentury, however, the tenets of New Criticism and High Modernism had polarized the visual and the literary. Drucker skillfully traces the development of this critical position, suggesting a methodology closer to the actual practices of the early avant-garde artists based on a rereading of their critical and theoretical writings. After reviewing theories of signification, the production of meaning, and materiality, she analyzes the work of four poets active in the typographic experimentation of the 1910s and 1920s: Ilia Zdanevich, Filippo Marinetti, Guillaume Apollinaire, and Tristan Tzara. Drucker explores the context for experimental typography in terms of printing, handwriting, and other practices concerned with the visual representation of language. Her book concludes with a brief look at the ways in which experimental techniques of the early avant-garde were transformed in both literary work and in applications to commercial design throughout the 1920s and early 1930s. Few studies of avant-garde art and literature in the early twentieth century have acknowledged the degree to which typographic activity furthered debates about the very nature and function of the avant-garde. The Visible Word enriches our understanding of the processes of change in artistic production and reception in the twentieth century.
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Editorial Reviews

Drucker art and critical theory, Columbia U. says that later art criticism and literary theory distorted the view of the Futurist, Dadaist, and Cubist artists early in the 20th century who had developed innovative uses of typography as a means of blurring the distinction between visual art and literature. By midcentury, New Criticism and High Modernism had polarized them to such an extent that the works were incomprehensible. They must be approached in their own method, she concludes, and shows how with the works of four artists. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226165028
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/1997
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 306
  • Sales rank: 1,057,721
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction: Background Parameters, and Terminology 1
1 Semiotics, Materiality and Typographic Practice 9
2 Visual and Literary Materiality in Modern Art 49
3 Experimental Typography as a Modern Art Practice 91
Marinetti: Materiality and Sensation: Mechanical Synaesthesia 105
Apollinaire: Figuring the Vernacular 140
Zdanevich: Inachievable Essentialism and Zaum Typography 168
Tzara: Advertising Language of Commodity Culture 193
4 Critical History: The Demise of Typographic Experiment 223
Notes 249
Bibliography 273
Index 289
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