For a decade AnOther Magazine has created a platform for original art projects spanning multiple disciplines: from Damien Hirst’s bloody skulls and severed heads shot by David Bailey (so shocking the pages were sealed with glue) to AnOther’s 2007 Dress Art project in which 15 artists were paired with 15 designers to create 15 unique dresses. To mark the magazine’s milestone birthday and long-standing relationship with the art world, Contributing Editor Francesca Gavin curated an exclusive A to Z, featured in the current AnOther 10 Year Anniversary Special issue. Based on the 26 letters of the English alphabet Gavin selected 26 artists – renowned for their investigation of text, word and language – to each interpret a letter. The results are a fascinating exploration into the Middle Age old system, full of visual associations and playful metaphors, created by artists ranging from John Baldessari to Miranda July.
How did the idea for the A-Z project come about?
AnOther asked me to come up with an art project to celebrate its 10th anniversary. For me part of what has always made AnOther so interesting is the intelligence of its text alongside the imagery – that balance seemed to be central to its history and ethos. I loved the idea of artists trying to get to grips with the fundamentals of a publication – the written word. I love the structure of something like an alphabet – something an audience recognises immediately and instinctively. I also thought it gave the breadth of artists we included so much space to show their work.
How did you go about pairing each letter with an artist’s work?
I let the artists choose which letter they wanted to do. I didn’t want it the results to be so literal, the letter of their intials for example. Each letter of the alphabet is full of so much semiotic content there is tons to get a grip on and explore.
Which is your favourite letter and why?
A hard choice! I loved that a lot of the artists were pioneers with working with text such as Lawrence Weiner. Tal R's Z is beautiful – I love its sense of overload, that pinned collage approach. assume vivid astro focus' V makes me smile immediately. You can count on Eli Sudbrack for something visceral. Though of course I adore my own letter – F – by Marnie Weber. It couldn’t be more surreal and out there.
Did you face any challenges when compiling the A-Z?
It worked surprisingly smoothly. I think the artists really responded to the idea. I think we did pretty well with the spread considering the variety of approach and palette.
How important do you think language is in art?
It depends on the art! I think it can be hugely interesting and important when artists engage with the building blocks of how we communicate, the basics of our existence. Language is central to that. I think artists that write for example have a really different approach, which can be very exciting. But I also think that a lot of art can be incredibly effective when it strives to break away from language – connect to the viewer on other instinctive levels. Sound, colour, space, whatever. I'm sure psychologists would argue that language is still feeding into even abstract work but I like when artists try to find other ways to communicate as much as I love the written word.
Which artist do you think has the most interesting approach to text, word and language in their work, and why?
With the alphabet Amie Dicke's letter H using cuts of her own hair was very interesting. That sense of physicality, performance. You could almost imagine a speechless person trying to express what the letter H was using that fundamental part of the human body. Outside the alphabet I just saw an amazing show of Kara Walker's print work at Sikkema Jenkins + Co in New York. It was the best work I think I've seen using text in a long time –political, emotional, visually brilliant. She's a hugely important artist.
Text by Lucia Davies
Buy the latest issue of AnOther to view the A to Z in full.