Kay Rosen’s linguisticky art

Does text have a proper place in serious art? In Kay Rosen’s work, that question becomes moot because the text is the art. In these small pieces on display at the Art Institute of Chicago, juxtapositions of words and letters reveal some hidden corners of language. Want an argument for spelling reform? You’ll get nothing more concise or immediate than Rosen’s “HUG HUGH UGH” (way better than ghoti for “fish”).  Want to put your finger on how North American English differs from British English? You’ll get one short and sweet answer in “ODD ODD OTTO” (the geeky term for what’s going on here is flapping). According to the text of the exhibit, Rosen trained formally in linguistics, but later devoted herself to visual art. “She realized that what interested her most about language was not the formal rules and applications, but the unconventional, unauthorized events that most often go unnoticed.”

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