The Fine Art of Typography

Christopher Wool, Apocalypse now, 1988


How big is the influence of language on our life? Not only is language a premise for communication, a purpose and convenience of order or indications, but it confesses one’s love, delivers the art of singing or cursing and it creates literature in poetry and novels.

Many artists have been fascinated by the beautiful formation of letters as decorative purposes and not just the function of delivering information. However, the meaning of the letter itself is as important as formation as pictures for the artists taking the art of letters and turning them into their own artworks. Most of those artists, consciously or unconsciously,  might have been deeply inspired by the meaning that the letters make up in words. Also, it is clear that they must have considered an association process that people would have when they see their work of art.

The word ‘typography’ is derived from the Greek words typos “impression” and graphein “to write” combined and, for the meaning that the name has, it is widely used in not only fine arts but in many art fields today like graphic design, animation, comic books, graffiti, etc. It tells that communication as a ‘language’ can be more effective through elements for visualized expression as ‘art’.


Francis Picabia, a French artist, is one of the pioneers who diverted experimental typography into arts. He is praised with putting designs into fine arts focusing on the expression of feelings in practical applications like art magazines. His work has influenced many other artists like David Salle and Julian Schnabel.

Francis Picabia, lci, c’est ici Stieglitz, foi et amour, cover of 291, No.1, 1915
Francis Picabia, Reveil Matin (Alarm Clock), Dada 4-5, No. 5, 15 May 1919

An American artist Christopher Wool is famous for his paintings of large, black, stenciled letters on white canvases. He started these paintings after he came across graffiti on a white truck one day. The stenciled letters saying things like ‘Run Dog Run’ or ‘Sell the House, Sell the Car, Sell the Kids’ attracted a lot of attention with various responses.

Christopher Wool, Apocalypse now, 1988

Artist Bruce Nauman had an exhibition with a fun title of ‘One Hundred Live and Die’ and he exhibited his works in neon lights with 100 phrases like ‘LIVE AND DIE’, ‘LIVE AND LIVE’, SLEEP AND LIVE’, ‘KNOW AND LIVE’, etc. In an interview, he said that his work had been influenced by idea of a philosopher ‘Ludwig Wittgenstein’. He visualized the philosophical concept of Wittgenstein called the Language Game through the exhibition ‘A Rose Has No Teeth’. It was the form of intention that comes from the correlation and the general faith in various words.

Bruce Nauman, One Hundred Live and Die

There is another artist, Inhee Jeong from Daegu, whose works remind one of a philosopher of genius and ideas. She has exhibited a series of paintings and objects that show the element of typography at a renovated art space that once used to be an apartment housing tobacco factory workers. The artist locks herself up in her studio that often feels like a cell and fills her day transcribing her old diaries, her favorite book and others as if she tries to hold time that is gone. As Wittgenstein’s picture theory or language game,  she wonders around the essence that can exist or can not exist and captures some similarities from it by making her own form of language like ‘Pink=Dance’, ‘Yellow=Field Trip’, ‘Blue=Love’, ‘Black=Night’, ‘Green=Memo’, ‘Orange=Diary’. She desires a place that in time doesn’t exist, constant present and meets her true self through her works as if she comes across the point between the picture theory and the language game instead of remaining silent about things that can not be said.

Artist-run space, Realti has chosen Typography that one can express his or her own story as the theme of its 6th Wine and Paint Night workshop. Why not expressing our own voices visually through the workshop at 7pm, May 19th? It will truly be a great, meaningful experience for us living in lack of communication era to wake the dead language(words) up.

Inhee Jeong, The Prison Notebook, Typographic installation, 2017
Inhee Jeong, The Prison Notebook, Typographic installation, 2017
Inhee Jeong, The Prison Notebook, Typographic installation, 2017
Inhee Jeong, The Prison Notebook, 60, 90.5cm, Acrylic on tin plate, 2017

Check out the Realti here:…


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