PRINT December 1990


BREAKING DOWN GRAMMAR and disfiguring words, Kay Rosen aims to encode meaning, then engender reading. Her paintings of language create a fine tension, holding together visual and verbal, sense and nonsense, in an esthetic stranglehold. At the moment you understand the language, successfully linking syllables into functional words, Rosen disrupts language’s symbolic order. Meaning is consciously liberated, altered, and even exceeded. Metonymic shifts as easy and as fantastic as that of homophobia to homophonia seem logical in a corpus where grass skirts are associated with flesh cuts.

However Rosen’s signs function iconically, one reads painting and representation at the same time that one sees writing, even narrative. In noink: pigmentless, 1990, the words of the title are inscribed on a pink ground, and despite the absence of color and meaning they suggest, the work overwhelmingly invokes

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