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July 2, 2013 – November 17, 2013 (new closing date)
Archives of American Art
8th and F Streets, NW
Location: Lawrence A. Fleischman Gallery, Reynolds Center, 1st Floor
The handwriting of influential artists reveals how the simple act of writing a letter in one’s own hand can be an artistic act. Every message brims with the personality of the artist at the moment of interplay between hand, eye, mind, pen, and paper. The letters on view, all from collections in the Archives of American Art, show that an artist might put pen to paper just as he or she would apply a line to a drawing. Handwriting animates the page.
In the age of e-mails, texts, and tweets, when handwritten letters have ceased to be a primary mode of person-to-person communication, this exhibition explores what can be learned from the handwriting of artists, including Georgia O’Keeffe, Isamu Noguchi, Willem de Kooning, and Thomas Eakins. Accompanying each letter is an interpretation by a leading authority on the artist’s work that discusses how the pressure of line and sense of rhythm speak to that artist’s signature style. Questions of biography also arise: Does the handwriting confirm assumptions about the artist, or does it suggest a new understanding?