Feb 3rd 2023

What Are Words For?

@ Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art

756 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60642

Opening Friday, February 3rd, from 5PM - 8PM

On view through Sunday, March 19th

Celebrate the opening of “What Are Words For?” at the exhibition’s evening reception from 5–8 p.m. on Friday, February 3!

There is much an artist conveys when adding words to their images. The significance can lie simply in their placement in the composition, or the words can enhance and juxtapose the image’s meaning and challenge definition, which, in turn, challenges the definition of the word or phrase itself. For artists like Luke Shemroske and Molly McGrath, words may be presented as a learning process—through repetition of the words and their images or by boldly stating them as fact, as if to say: “Aha, I have a grasp on the meaning of this phrase or word, even if only in this present moment in time!” In some cases, artists present these words as questions to the world. Shemroske asks: “I love myself, Avoidance is Bad, Bad idea, I am a Pilgrim, Live Fast, and Love is Strong, Death is Impending.

However, at times, words can be finite and yet ambiguous, because language is constantly changing over time. If the inclusion of words in artistic expression and images has the potential for unintentional meaning, does their absence signify permanence? Can a picture say more than a thousand words? In many ways, yes, because it uses a visual language that is cryptic, expressive and intuitive between the artist and the audience. Is Safiya Hameed’s Butterfly such an image? Could it be an aspect of the artist’s mind or, maybe, a malevolent spirit that had to put image to paper through her automatic method of drawing? One also senses such impact in the expressive and repetitive lines, images and strokes in Catherine Butterfly’s Fall of Babylon.

Words can be vital elements of images. In the end, the inclusion of words is an artistic choice that can either enhance or, sometimes, become the image. What Are Words For? implores audiences to wander and wonder with these artworks and be present with the images and words presented.

Robyn Jablonski
Creative Director, Project Onward

“What Are Words For?” features works of art by six Project Onward artists: Catherine Butterfly, William Douglas, Safiya Hameed, Molly McGrath, Luke Shemroske and Lucy Woodhouse. The exhibition centers on the significance of words and language represented in art—What do the words mean? How do they enhance or challenge the images they accompany? Is their presence as significant as their absence? These questions serve as points of entry for audiences to consider when looking at the varied styles of each artist.


Please contact Courtney Thompson at courtney@art.org with questions related to accessibility accommodations.

The opening reception is free to join! Reserve tickets in advance on Tock or contact us at (312) 624-9487 or intuit@art.org, and we will assist you. Walk-ins are welcome!

Reserve tickets on Tock: https://www.exploretock.com/intuit


Image: Luke Shemroske (American, b. 1991). Counterpoint, 2018. Mixed media on canvas, 9 x 12 in. Photo courtesy Project Onward

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