A group exhibition at the Athenaeum puts its own spin on philosopher Marshall McLuhan’s mantra “The medium is the message.” For the 12 artists in “Words and Letters” — each of whom uses language, or in some cases merely jumbled letters — the role of the written symbol varies widely. A few works contain snatches of actual poetry and are meant to be read. For many others, the building blocks of language have been put into a blender and spread around like paint.
Cara Ober also uses what might be called poetry, but of a very different kind. Along with representational imagery (a girl wearing bangs, for instance) and other abstract design elements, the Baltimore painter liberally sprinkles her canvases with fragments of found, almost Dadaistic text. Printed dictionary definitions float alongside scraps of handwriting — “i fold you into the silence of myself” — creating a stew of seemingly random, collagelike signifiers, none of which submits to easy interpretation.
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