How to Look at Words
Galerie Vincenz Sala
Sigmaringer Str. 23
April 22nd till May 19th, 2023
Opening April 22nd from 6 pm
WED–FRI from 3–7pm
and by appointment
On the Show:
Writing as something to look at has its place in the gallery’s program. So far exclusively in the section ‘handwritten’, that is drawing. Adib Fricke’s work is not at all about handwritten drawings but about words set in block letters. A work on written language that engages in a multiply varied breach of word, a literal breaking, crossing through and at the same time untwisting of the word. Fricke’s ‘HOW TO LOOK AT WORDS’ approaches the word this side of its communicative context and signification.
His skimming of the depths of various databases, but also the direct delegation to the random generator, which writes small talk about the art world, is to the point. To be noted, written small talk, this random generator doesn’t speak. Fricke’s work with block-lettered words has no voice. If it speaks it is simulation of speech by a machine-generated voice entirely and audibly missing the meaning of what is being read as in ‘Die Reise - Ein Gedicht in 42 Strophen’ (The Journey - A Poem in 42 Stanzas) a work of 1988, which we showed in the group exhibition ‘books’ end last year.
Above all, Fricke has created a magnificent world of words. The stripped-back, minimalist typography he developed remains grounded in the common aesthetics of the world of type and letters that surrounds us, but carefully composed and in bold color. Even the plain black and white he uses in his work insists on a luminosity that wants nothing to do with the truth value of the proverbial "black on white." Fricke’s words have no exchange value. They do not want to be spoken to a counterpart, they want to be read. A reading, however, that cannot help but engage in the "literal" power of color—it’s always not just reading but a ‘LOOKING AT WORDS’.
The textuality in Fricke's work is about playing with the legibility of the word. A play with the early learned cultural technique of reading and this inescapable conditioning that has to turn any sequence of letters, no matter how colorful, into some word. Even if the word, as in the case of Fricke’s protonyms, developed some years ago in his ‘The Word Company’, lacks any meaning and can at best be used as a personal or brand name. This almost compulsory reading puts up with just about any odd sequence of letters. We are pleased, probably also relieved, to find that Fricke’s conscious, often unpronounceable lapses of pen, his moving of vowels and consonants within a word, almost immediately reveal their meaning. It’s a thoroughly learned and astonishingly prompt deciphering providing a kind of quiet happiness when encountering the friction between the colorfully defaced signifier and the signified showing through.
Fricke’s words have their extravagant life of their own, which, in their materiality and physicality, they share with us readers. Whether panel painting, large-format poster, or installation work in space, the set words remain unspoken and present themselves to our reading in their colorful appearance. Even in his works with orthographically and grammatically correct sentences, one encounters this quiet self-referentiality of admittedly bold presence. Thus, our looking at Fricke’s treasury of words is immediately followed by a reverberation, a lingering monologue that even has an approximate voice: one’s own.