new-york

View of “Nancy Dwyer,” 2013. Foreground: The ME Block, 1988. Background: BIG EGO II, 2010.

Nancy Dwyer

Fisher Landau Center for Art

View of “Nancy Dwyer,” 2013. Foreground: The ME Block, 1988. Background: BIG EGO II, 2010.

Which of these things is not like the other: history painting, portraiture, landscape, still life, words? Even as late as 1970, one still assumed that “studio majors” would find “words” misplaced on a list of the academic genres—even if, by then, it was also as likely that the academic genres themselves would no longer be recognized as such, so complete was the rout of academicism by that date.

This was all felt rather keenly during the era when an art of “word as image” began to take hold. Nancy Dwyer added the skills of the commercial sign maker to this theoretical mix; by the mid-1980s, she had mastered the aphoristic reductivism of the logo and begun her efforts to convey big messages with the intriguing use of the single word or even, at times, the single word’s constituent letters, disarranged. A simple example is LIE, 1986: (1) a falsehood, (2) a position, as when the

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