PRINT October 1987


I’ll say a word and I want you to tell me the first thing that pops into your head.

For Alexis Smith, in the beginning was the word, a collection of characters with the power to signify. And her investment in words has resulted in visual verbal returns. For example, there’s Jane. In 1985, the allusionary power of these four letters in this sequence led Smith to some 30 collages composed around them. Jane: slang for a woman; a conveyor of Hollywood allure—Jayne Mansfield, Jane Russell; a popular myth, often paired with another—Tarzan and Jane, Dick and Jane, Calamity Jane and Deadwood Dick; a resonance of the proper and literary—Jane Austen, Jane Bowles, Jane Eyre; a symbol of the anonymous, the everywoman—Jane Doe. In Smith’s collages, a single word, sentence, or phrase begets a matrix of potential connotations, spinning webs of possibility between the imagination and the material world.

to keep reading

Artforum print subscribers have full access to this article. If you are a subscriber, sign in below.

Not registered for Register here.

SUBSCRIBE NOW at the discounted holiday rate of $45 a year—70% off the newsstand price—and receive the print magazine plus full online access to this issue and our archive.*

Order the PRINT EDITION of the October 1987 issue for $17 or the ONLINE EDITION for $5.99.

* This rate applies to U.S. domestic subscriptions.