Word up

By Liz Reyna

Scene exhibit explores art of language in print

Whether nested in a tangle of grapevines, bound in a book or blinking in an optical illusion, the textual work of more than 15 artists displayed at Scene Metrospace speaks novels about this new dimension of art.

The work is part of “Word Play,” a graphic, sculptural and structural exhibit about the promise and beauty of language on exhibit through Aug. 23 at the East Lansing gallery.

Art lovers gathered Friday night at the gallery to celebrate the show focused on the printed page, the literature and the playfulness of word art.

"The art in the show uses mediums that transcend what people think about typical works of art," said Tim Lane, director of Scene Metrospace.

The show features work by local, national and international artists, including work Robert Parks, of Lansing, Ofelia Chong, of California, and Kurnal Rawat, of India.

Ben Gaydos, participating artist and curator of the exhibit, brought this collection together after being inspired by a collaborative project at Virginia Commonwealth University.

The project united graphic design students with poets from around the nation to share the stories of the poets visually.

The book they produced, thINK, is displayed at Scene.

"I think what the pieces have going for them is an experience of interaction between the viewer and the pieces," Gaydos said. "It’s not just passive viewing; for many of the pieces, people are asked to engage so that they could have the possibility to experience the piece in a million different ways."

Gadyos takes the interactive experience further with a piece featuring eight cardboard letters, which spell out the exhibit’s namesake, stacked together in the front of the gallery. For Gaydos, the piece is a hands-on way to display the playfulness of language.

"The cardboard letter forms seem commonplace, but the material which they are made of seems to harken back to childhood, and we hope that the people who come to show move them around, make new words and play with them,” Gaydos said. “And hopefully it won’t be just children doing it, either.”

From afar, Parks’ eye-popping sculp ture looks like metal work, but it’s actually a chaotic web of painted grapevines, shining in a metallic luminescence. Inside the vines, viewers can find a collage of as many as 10,000 letters, Parks said, spelled out throughout the piece.

Parks wants viewers to look at the sculpture as a united display of his two interests: language and sculpture. "I hope people realize that my art has a dual quality," Parks said. "There is the visual, the size and physicality of the piece, but also a more intellectual side with the collage of words that is hopefully brought together in a unified piece."

Although the show has been up for less than a week, Gaydos said the connection between art and language has already taken effect on several of the artists. The show destroys labels, he said, as many under the lumpsum title of “artists” in this show consider themselves anything from designers to craftspeople to poets.

That’s all because of the endless possibilities of language, Gaydos said, which he hopes will emanate from the pieces.

"Language isn’t just as cut and dry as it seems, and how the artists are using language in this show, in many different ways, is very exciting," Gaydos said. "Hopefully, people will have fun and think about words in new ways."

‘Word Play’

Aug. 23 Scene Metrospace, 110 Charles St., East Lansing Hours: 2 - 5
p.m. Thursday 2 - 6 p.m. Friday & Saturday Noon – 4 p.m. Sunday
(517) 319-6832 www.scenemetrospace.com