In companion with the exhibition: TEXTURE.TXT

by Jennifer Coates

Texture is the arrangement, pattern, or feel of constituent parts: a rough surface comprised of granules, thread woven into fabric, musical notes swirling in densities of sounds. Text is letters shuffled into words shuffled into meaningful passages - visual communication representing speech, our guttural utterances in the form of perceptible marks on a surface. Speech is formed by syllables that are constructed in the body and emitted through the mouth, where hard and soft sounds with wavering intonation are filtered through the acoustic mechanism of the throat, and are shaped by the tongue and lips. Texture and text originate from the Indo-European word "teks" meaning to weave, to fabricate. It is a word for a craftsperson, one who builds, one who manipulates an accumulation of small units into something useful, something to trade, something symbolic.

Artists often play with these ideas. They jiggle symbols into alternately meaningful and confusing relationships, build patterns from distinct marks, and create objects that are meant to have special value. Artworks, like writing, are graphic and reference both words and images. And the evolution of writing is linked to pictures, as the earliest forms of written communication are depictions of animals in caves, pigmented rubbings and scratches on dark stone walls that say "I was here, I saw this, I have feelings about this thing I saw."

Jackie Tileston arranges colored shapes and lines into jumbles on black fields that contain traces of a multi-cultural visual history. Decorative water ripples from Chinese painting mingle with cartoon drips and striped Hindu deities in silhouette. Polka dots are like insane displaced punctuation marks. Lines curve and flourish like ornately unraveling cursive script. Tileston begins to build and then smashes or lets leak away the potential meaning that her image fragments contain. Dona Nelson, in her painting "Spacey Characters" has unspooled string onto canvas to conjure six distinct animated forms in two rows of three. The string curls and squiggles, creating shapes within shapes that seem to modify each other, hinting at meaning like some kind of alien alphabet. Bright paint puddles and pools around them as they reference pictograms, figures and nonsense all at once. Gilbert Rocha uses black and white tape in his piece "No Cable Cry" to create a textural field of horizontals that look like snow on a television screen or blurred lines of words in a newspaper. The images and words have both walked away, leaving a buzzing residue behind them. By layering repetitive shreds on canvas, he has woven a space for disorientation and meditation, where the confusion of communication is slowed and simplified.

The title of this show,Texture.txt, adds a technological spin to ancient practices. FIles sent through the ether generated in computer programs and stored in our prosthetic computer-memories with particular extensions, indicating their kind, must still have something to do with antecedent practices of communicating through smears in dirt with sticks or fingers.

writing index

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