mfc-michèle didier, Paris

For its 4th consecutive participation to ART-O-RAMA, the Paris-based publishing house and gallery mfc-michèle didier will gather for its booth a selection of artworks by Robert Barry, Fiona Banner and The Guerrilla Girls. Three artists questions language through its textual and/or graphic representation on print medium.

Robert Barry’s work is intimately connected to language since the 1960’s. The artist uses words, he plays with them, directs them and questions them. The statements of Somethings that… as short sentences which seem to evoke absolutely nothing, are a major aspect of his practice. Indeed, even though these combinations of words are meaningful and grammatically correct, neither image nor transcription is elaborated by the reader’s mind, only the idea of possible figures remains. With Barry, textual language becomes conceptual, it loses its immediate discursive function to give way to visual language. Visual language indeed in the American artist’s work, based on a most radical and identifiable typographic form. The font used by the artist recalls the visual power of his artworks. The formal plays, such as the text position on the sheet space, lead to the materialisation of sentences, words, and even language itself.

For The Guerrilla Girls, having resort to language is a political act. Through the distribution and/or posting of several posters during their various actions in public space, the « Bad Girls » seek, among other things, to share a message: « Opening the public eye to the discrimination which reigns within our artistic institutions ». Their posters therefore are leaflets, and their texts, headlines. Wishing to communicate with the highest number, The Guerrilla Girls use simple but powerful codes, short but incisive texts, black bold or ultra bold capital letters. This effectiveness of the visual vocabulary focuses the attention on the discourse content, that is to be heard. Far away from Robert Barry’s typewriting series, here, the language is a weapon and girls get straight to the point !
Designed as genuine promotional tools, the four posters of Fiona Banner’s “The Greatest Film Never Made” series have been commissioned by the artist from three London-based graphic design agency in the film industry. Each one echoes the narrative’s dramatic intensity of Joseph Conrad’s tale Heart of Darkness. This novel that occupies an important place in Banner’s work relates a slow voyage up the Congo River through the eyes of a young British officer named Marlow who sets out to find Kurtz, an ivory trader reported missing.

Using traditional communication means of film posters, Fiona Banner imposes the picture. There is no text here, except for the movie title and the billing block. However, Conrad’s tale is at the heart of the visual aim. With The Greatest Film Never Made, the British artist transcribes by means of picture the narrative structure of a text that have influenced generations of film makers such as Orson Welles or Francis Ford Coppola.

Whether conceptual, political, or ironically promotional, the language used by Fiona Banner, Robert Barry, or even The Guerrilla Girls is an artistic language. It is the language they have chosen, asserted and claimed.