Roberta Allen: “Language is the bridge…”

“Language is the bridge…”

Roberta Allen began making and exhibiting her conceptual art more than a half century ago, before she came to author eight books and more than 200 works of short fiction. Indeed, as she explains in this 2021 interview, her earliest writing was about her art. Allen had her first solo exhibition of paintings at Galerie 845 in Amsterdam in 1967. Since then her work has been exhibited continually in galleries and museums worldwide, and it is in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, MOMA, and the Cooper-Hewitt, among other notable institutions

Although any work of art, no matter how abstract, spontaneous or irrational, can be described in terms of its conception, meaning the idea that prompted or informed its creation, conceptual art,” emphasizes the concept, rather than the art. It is the idea that matters, not the material expression of the idea.

Roberta Allen’s art-words merge with picture in a way that steers the viewer toward introspection. The texts accompanying her images employ a common strategy which Allen declares is the same one she’s utilized for more than fifty years: she defines subjective views as facts. In so doing she recognizes the universal bias of perception, judgment, and memory, and tries to provoke the viewer to self-awareness. She does not give us a Duchamp type ready-made, its meaning contextualized with language, nor does she simply hang words on a wall like, for example, Glenn Lignon’s declaration “I AM A MAN,” or John Baldessari’s “PURE BEAUTY.”  Allen’s effects arise from combining text and image so that each elucidates the other.

Over the decades Allen has pondered arrows without points, connections that impede connection, thoughts about thoughts, subjectivity as fact.

Enjoy your visit with this highly original writer-artist and please check out The Writer’s Brush: Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture by Writers for more than 400 plates of artwork by great writers and the stories behind them.

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