When Art Gives The Word

March 13, 2020

The use of words and text in the 20th-century art history is associated with the post-war production, although the avant-garde movements used words in combination with images for collages. However, the first movement to explore the notion of words and their influence on the spectator was Pop art, the movement that was largely inspired by popular culture, commercial graphic design, and marketing. Such an interest was more thoroughly approached with the later development of Conceptual art, Neon art and other movements to follow.

We selected eight exceptional text-based artworks by renowned artists coming from different backgrounds that you can add to your collection as you read the text below.

Featured image: Nick Walker - Truck Prow. All images courtesy of their respective galleries.

Adriano Costa - International Division of Lab

The first artwork on our top list was made by the Brazilian artist Adriano Costa and it interprets the modernist and especially Minimalist legacies of sculptures and installations made of different everyday materials; he is interested in exploring the traces of colonialism in the context of local artistic tradition. Costa explores the real value of artworks by examining how ordinary or prestigious materials can be transformed into an art object and vice versa.

International Division of Lab is a metal plate with an inscription Brazilian wax made by the artist in 2014.

Buy the work here.

Nick Walker - Truck Prow

The following artwork was made by an established English graffiti artist Nick Walker who came to prominence while being part of the stencil graffiti movement started by Robert Del Naja in the 1980s. His paintings are characterized by recognizable humor and style based on the omnipresent figure of the bowler-hatted gentleman. During the 2000s, Walker had a couple of significant shows, numerous works bought by the collectors, and his works were featured in a video by The Black Eyed Peas.

The print Truck Prow nicely illustrates his black and white imagery inhabited by the bowler-hatted gentleman.

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Douglas Gordon and Morgane Tschiember - Untitled

Douglas Gordon is a contemporary artist interested in human conditions like memory and the passing of time, themes that he expresses through various media spanning from video, over installation, to text. On the other hand, Morgane Tschiember is a French sculptor, creates highly performative works, visually deployed of gesture, yet evocative of the production process and the trace of the artist’s own body. Gordon and Tschiember worked together on a couple of multimedia projects such as As close as you can for as long as it lasts.

This text-based Untitled artwork reminiscent of the Conceptual art was produced by the artists in 2018.

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Anton Kannemeyer - Black Star

The fourth artwork on our top list was made by the South African comics artist Anton Kannemeyer best known for his outrages comics rooted in black humor and satire. Together with Conrad Botes he co-founded Bitterkomix and is known as a wise manipulator of this media as a harsh criticizer of the South African cultural mainstream, and the racial stereotypes that frame that country.

Black Star exemplifies his unprecedented and subversive aesthetic and was made by the artist in 2017.

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The Connor Brothers - All My Life I've Been A Liar

The Connor Brothers are an artist duo formed by the British artists Mike Snelle and James Golding that is known for works depicting vintage pin-up beauties and Old Hollywood starlets followed by witty captions. Snelle and Golding initially presented themselves as fictional twin brothers Franklyn and Brendan Connor, who escaped from a California cult by moving to Brooklyn at age of sixteen to become artists. Today, the artists kept the fictional name and shed their guise, while and their work is focused on social causes such as the European refugee crisis.

The piece All My Life I've Been A Liar features yet another femme fatal and was made by the artists in 2017.

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Deborah Kass - Oy

This artwork was made by the American artist Deborah Kass whose work is based on the mix of pop culture, art history, and the construction of self; she works in a variety of media and is best known for her paintings, prints, photography, and neon lighting installations. Kass's early works imitate signature features of the iconic male artists of the 20th century including Frank Stella, Andy Warhol, and Jackson Pollock. As the critically acclaimed appropriation artist she critically dissects the power relations, identity politics, and the historically dominant position of male artists in the art world.

Her work Oy immortalizes the famous slang "Yo" in a reversed manner.

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Ed Ruscha - Sin/Without

This powerful text-based work by Ed Ruscha, an established artist that came to prominence in the 1960s as an important proponent of the thriving Pop Art movement. He is practically the successor of the Beat Generation with his outstanding collages and text-based pieces, and a proto Conceptualist, who was immensely influenced by the city of Los Angeles and both urban and rural landscapes.

Sin/Without is a captivating lithograph made by Ruscha in 2002.

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Robert Indiana - HEAL (Red, Green, Blue Variation)

The last artwork on our top list was made by no other then one of the best known Pop masters, Robert Indiana. He is best known for his sign works based on a simplistic, bold, colorist variations of a single word (such as Eat, Hug or Love) presented through painting, sculpture and print. By exploring the domains of ordinary language and commercial graphic designs, Indiana articulated American history of art and national identity.

HEAL (Red, Green, Blue Variation) is a print made by the artist in 2015.

Buy the work here.

Follow These Artists

Nick Walker
Ed Ruscha

Follow These Galleries

Bergamin & Gomide

Sao Paulo, Brazil


Mexico City, Mexico

Kavi Gupta Gallery

Chicago, United States of America