Skip to main content

Kay Rosen:
Black and White and Read All Over

September 10, 2010 – October 16, 2010


In order to model itself after its real life counterpart, PENDULUM’s letters have to be completely reordered. The new order, PNUUMLDE, reflects the successive stations of a pendulum’s arc as it swings back and forth across an imaginary center between the first and last letters, the second and seventh, the third and sixth, and the fourth and fifth, punctuating each one with a change of direction. The sequence of letters is deliberately out of order linguistically but in order conceptually. While the word does not actively move, it serves as a kind of score for reading which the viewer activates each time they read it. As they attempt to spell it correctly by visually reordering the letters, their repeated eye movements back and forth between P and E, N and D, U and L, and U and M mimic the pendulum’s motion. It is an unintelligible jumble of letters until the viewers set it in motion. The reader generates the pendulum, whose alternating rhythm is reinforced by its black and white palette.

Color, sequence, and incidence of letters are important to the way words play out their message, but in issues of polarity numbers are important too, as in any situation involving two sides.  PENDULUM is stabilized by balance. Its even-numbered letters, four on each side of the center, methodically record each stroke to the right and left by the virtual pendulum. When it swings one way, it can be assured by gravity and momentum that it will swing back by that much the other way. The center here is not the subject of colonization, but the fixed point against which the equal distance to each side is measured. Within a word, that distance is measured by the number of letters. If pendulum did not have even-numbered letters, it would not have worked.

 — from The Center Is a Concept, Kay Rosen.

When asked if she had a statement to add to this announcement, Kay suggested the following:

“When it comes to reading my work, throw out all the rules you ever learned: spelling, spacing, capitalization, margins, linear reading, composition…all your old reading habits will be useless.”

To further expand on this, Roberta Smith, in the New York Times, wrote the following:

“Kay Rosen might be described as a writer’s sculptor.  While strictly two-dimensional, her crisp sign-painter-style drawings and wall paintings cleave and reassemble words: highlighting, deleting or shoving together their letters and syllables to make them new in ways variously phonetic, typographic, visual and linguistic … Ms. Rosen’s legibility arrives in separate stages, like a well-timed joke, which sets off a surprisingly physiological experience: your eyes widen, your gut tightens, and your mind changes gears … Zeroing in on language and forcing it through the sieve of form and perception, Ms. Rosen makes us see it, and the world, differently, often in sad, wise ways.  Cultivating her own garden, she is one of the best artists of our time.”
— Robert Smith, Art in Review, New York Times, October 12, 2006

Works In Exhibition

Slice of Life

Kay Rosen Slice of Life 2009 Enamel sign paint on canvas

18 x 16 1/8 inches  (45.7 x 41 cm)
(Inventory #22643)


Kay Rosen Pendulum 2003/2005 Latex paint on wall

Installation measurements vary
(Inventory #22635)


Kay Rosen Key 2007 Enamel sign paint on canvas

17 x 26 1/2 inches  (43.2 x 67.3 cm)
(Inventory #22637)

Windows (Front and Rear)

Kay Rosen Windows (Front and Rear) 2010 Pencil on two sheets of paper

Image/paper size:  14 1/2 x 10 5/8 inches each  (36.8 x 27 cm each)
(Inventory #22648)




Kay Rosen Tent 2009/2010 Latex paint on wall

Dimensions variable
(Inventory #22647)


Kay Rosen Overbite 2008 Enamel sign paint on canvas

15 x 25 inches  (38.1 x 63.5 cm)
(Inventory #22634)