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The 1960's saw the rise of conceptual art which broke away from traditional forms of art making such as painting and sculpture, moving toward an engagement with the social and political issues of the time. Many artists looked to visual genres that sat outside the realm of fine or 'high' art, such as comic books, advertising, television and the mass media. Artists borrowed from commercial and  popular culture hence the term Pop Art was coined. Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol are some of Pop Art's  most notable figures, now household names, their iconic works such as Warhol's Campbell's Soup paintings and Lichtenstein's comic strip paintings can be seen below.

Andy Warhol's pop art painting of a Campbell's Tomato Soup Can.
Photograph of gallery staff at the Stedelijk Museum installing two of Roy Lichtenstein's comic strip inspired paintings.

Artists at this time began to work with language and text in ways they historically hadn't before. Turning to it as the subject and the medium of their work.

Below you'll find videos and links to artists who work with text, language and image in a myriad of ways, from work that shows the hand of the artist, to print, sculptural works and public art pieces, Billboard Art, Sign Writing, and Light Art.  You'll also find a section on Poster Art and Graphic Art, known for it's playful use of typography, image and design. 


Corita Kent (1918–1986) was an artist, educator, and advocate for social justice. At age 18 she entered the religious order Immaculate Heart of Mary, eventually teaching in and then heading up the art department at Immaculate Heart College. Her work evolved from figurative and religious to incorporating advertising images and slogans, popular song lyrics, biblical verses, and literature. Throughout the ‘60s, her work became increasingly political, urging viewers to consider poverty, racism, and injustice. In 1968 she left the order and moved to Boston. After 1970, her work evolved into a sparser, introspective style, influenced by living in a new environment, a secular life, and her battles with cancer. She remained active in social causes until her death in 1986. At the time of her death, she had created almost 800 serigraph editions, thousands of watercolors, and innumerable public and private commissions.

Become a Microscope is Aaron Rose’s documentary on Sister Corita Kent, in it he interviews her friends and colleagues and uses animation to bring to life Kent's Serigraphs with their vibrant combination of text and image. 


Glenn Ligon (b. 1960) is an artist living and working in New York.

Ligon's work spans sculptures, prints, drawings, mixed media and neon signs, painting remains a core activity. Highly influenced by wide reading, he has incorporated texts into his paintings, in the form of literary fragments, jokes, and evocative quotes from a selection of authors, which he stencils directly onto the canvas by hand. His source materials concern issues of the lives of black Americans throughout history, often alluding to other prominent black figures.

In 1989, he mounted his first solo show, "How It Feels to Be Colored Me," in Brooklyn. This show established Ligon's reputation for creating large, text-based paintings in which a phrase chosen from literature or other sources is repeated continuously, eventually dissipating into murk. Untitled (I Am a Man) (1988), a reinterpretation of the signs carried during the Memphis Sanitation Strike in 1968 — made famous by Ernest Withers's photographs of the march, is the first example of his use of text.[10] In several other paintings, he overlaps repeating text to a point of illegibility, demanding the viewer’s attention as they try to make out the obscured words. Ligon’s Prologue Series #2 (1991) includes the opening text of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, stencilled in various shades of black and grey, the words becoming less discernible as they progress towards the bottom of the composition. He uses this same passage of text in Prologue Series #5 (1991), but obscures the words further, creating a further sense of abstraction and ambiguity about the subject.



Barbara Kruger (born January 26, 1945) is an American conceptual artist and collagist. Most of her work consists of black-and-white photographs, overlaid with declarative captions, stated in white-on-red Futura Bold Oblique or Helvetica Ultra Condensed text. The phrases in her works often include pronouns such as "you", "your", "I", "we", and "they", addressing cultural constructions of power, identity, consumerism, and sexuality. 

Much of Kruger's work pairs found photographs with pithy and assertive text that challenges the viewer. Her method includes developing her ideas on a computer, later transferring the results (often billboard-sized) into printed images. Examples of her instantly recognizable slogans include "I shop therefore I am," "Your body is a battleground," and "You are not yourself" appearing in her signature white letters against a red background. Most of her work deals with provocative topics like feminismconsumerism, and individual autonomy and desire, frequently appropriating images from mainstream magazines and using her bold phrases to frame them in a new context.

Kruger has said that, "I work with pictures and words because they have the ability to determine who we are and who we aren't." A recurring element in her work is the appropriation and alteration of existing images. In describing her use of appropriation, Kruger states:

Pictures and words seem to become the rallying points for certain assumptions. There are assumptions of truth and falsity and I guess the narratives of falsity are called fictions. I replicate certain words and watch them stray from or coincide with the notions of fact and fiction.



" Ed Ruscha began his career as a layout artist at a Los Angeles advertising agency in the late 1950s. He has continued to draw on this background, producing works that demonstrate an ongoing interest in typography, signage and the West Coast of the United States. His creates paintings in which text is superimposed over landscapes and traditional American vistas, where the bold lettering is in complete opposition to the idyllic, idealised and somewhat kitsch representations of the images. Through this playful and characteristically enigmatic conflation of image and text, Ruscha explores the viewer's interpretation of language and transforms the words into subjects in themselves. "



Edwin Parker "Cy" Twombly Jr.  was an American paintersculptor and 


His paintings are predominantly large-scale, freely-scribbled, 

calligraphic and graffiti-like works on solid fields of mostly grey, tan, or off-white colours. His later paintings and works on paper shifted toward "romantic symbolism", and their titles can be interpreted visually through shapes and forms and words. Twombly often quoted poets such as Stéphane MallarméRainer Maria Rilke and John Keats, as well as classical myths and allegories, in his works. Examples of this are his Apollo and The Artist and a series of eight drawings consisting solely of inscriptions of the word "VIRGIL".



Online Exhibition  SIMON LEE Gallery

" Simon Lee Gallery is pleased to present WORDS, a group exhibition that explores the function of language and the role of text in art making. Whether dealing in political statements, ribald asides, poetry and literature or illegible scrawls and scribbles, the works in this exhibition comment on the ways in which ideas are exchanged and communication effected. While the visual language of an artist’s vernacular is well trodden ground, WORDS highlights the way in which – from the late 1960s onwards – conceptual art practice delved into notions of authorship, aesthetics and the dematerialisation of the traditional art object, in the pursuit of complicating the relationship between the verbal and the visual. Taking words and language as both subject and medium, the works presented explore the interrelation of form and meaning, and the distinction between looking at and reading a painting."



Lawrence Weiner's conceptual artwork "At the Same Moment" painted on pilings in the East River, as seen from the Staten island Ferry. Behind can be seen the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge.

Lawrence Weiner's conceptual artwork "At the Same Moment" painted on pilings in the East River, as seen from the Staten island Ferry. Behind can be seen the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge.

Lawrence Weiner (born New York, February 10, 1942) is an American conceptual artist. He is one of the central figures in the formation of conceptual art in the 1960s. His work often takes the form of typographic texts.

Photograph of artwork by Lawrence Weiner called  Bits & Pieces Put Together to Present a Semblance of a Whole made of laser-cut aluminum typography on brick. Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota.


Öyvind Axel Christian Fahlström (1928–1976) was a Swedish multimedia artist.

Fahlström was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

In 1953 Fahlström had his first solo exhibition, showing the drawing Opera, a room-sized felt-pen drawing.

In 1953 he wrote Hätila ragulpr på fåtskliaben, a manifesto for concrete poetry, published in Swedish the following year and in English translation (by Mary Ellen Solt, in her anthology "Concrete Poetry. A world view") in 1968.




10 Famous Graphic Designers Whose Work is Art

This article from WIDEWALLS gives a brief introduction to the history of graphic design in the 20th Century. Included are the bios and artwork of 10 Graphic Designers including renowned figures such as Alan Fletcher, Peter Saville, Saul Bass, Milton Glaser, and April Greiman, among others.  Click on the link above to read the article and view the works. 



Paula Scher is a contemporary American artist and graphic designer best known for her posters, logo designs, and album covers . Her impressive body of design shaped the perception and application of graphic design in many ways, particularly her technique of treating type as a visual image.

In the 1990s, Paula Scher began painting colourful typographic maps of the world, its continents, countries, islands, oceans, cities, streets and neighbourhoods. 

To read and interview with Scher about her love of typography and view more of her work click here.


Herb Lubalin was an American graphic designer who spent his career designing everything from advertising, posters, and even postage stamps. He was fascinated by the look of words and how typographic design can make them sound. Lubalin understood how by combining art, copy, and typography, graphic designers add conviction when communicating messages. He said:

“The better people communicate, the greater will be the need for better typography-expressive typography.”
— Herb Lubalin

Click on the link above to take you to Lubalin 100 a project of the Herb Lubalin Study Center to celebrate Lubalin’s centenary, directed by Annabel Brandon.


Poster for the Bauhausaustellung, 1923 by Joost Schmidt.

The Staatliches Bauhaus, commonly known as the Bauhaus (German: "building house"), was a German art school operational from 1919 to 1933 that combined crafts and the fine arts. The school became famous for its approach to design, which attempted to unify the principles of mass production with individual artistic vision and strove to combine aesthetics with everyday function.

The Bauhaus was founded by architect Walter Gropius in Weimar. It was grounded in the idea of creating a Gesamtkunstwerk ("comprehensive artwork") in which all the arts would eventually be brought together. The Bauhaus style later became one of the most influential currents in modern design, modernist architecture and art, design, and architectural education. The Bauhaus movement had a profound influence upon subsequent developments in art, architecture, graphic design, interior design, industrial design, and typography

Click on the link above to visit the Bauhaus website and view their online collection including graphic art, photography, textiles, painting and sculpture and much more.

Bauhaus poster with bold blue and red text on a dark blue background





Word hoards: masterpieces of concrete poetry – in pictures

This illustrated piece from The Guardian shows the pioneering work of Concrete Poets "such as Ian Hamilton Finlay and Augusto de Campos, [who] have shaken words out of standard verse structure and rearranged them in striking, new forms."

Concrete poetry is poetry in which the poet’s intent is conveyed by graphic patterns of letters, words, or symbols rather than by the meaning of words in conventional arrangement. The writer of concrete poetry uses typeface and other typographical elements in such a way that chosen units—letter fragments, punctuation marks, graphemes (letters), morphemes (any meaningful linguistic unit), syllables, or words (usually used in a graphic rather than denotative sense)—and graphic spaces form an evocative picture.





Click on the image below for a full size sheet and PDF you can download and print.

Ideas Sheet with text and illustrations on how to make your own concrete poem.
concrete poetry sheet 2.jpg


of Rabanus Maurus (9th Century)

" Take a quick glance at De laudibus sanctae crucis (translated as In Praise of the Holy Cross), a ninth-century manuscript by the Frankish Benedictine monk Rabanus Maurus, and you might think you are looking at an elaborate word search or even a medieval knitting pattern. But these spectacular images are actually parts of a devotional poem. Every other page of this unique work contains a poem written out in a grid of letters, a seeming chaos of letters from which emerge other forms: not only new words but figures and shapes too.


This text is an early case of what became known as "pattern poetry". In the definitive study of the form, Dick Higgins traces its history to the Cretian "Phaistos Disk", made in the 2nd millennium BC, in which hieroglyphic text spirals out of the centre, as if it is written on the shell of a snail. The technique took on many different manifestations over the centuries: from Aratea (another 9th-century manuscript), to George Herbert's "Easter Wings" (1633), to Apollinaire’s Calligrammes (1918), to the poesia concreta movement of mid-1950s Brazil which tied up experimental typography with modernist poetic forms."

Public Domain Review

click HERE to read the full article.

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