“Mr. Rogers Commencement Address, Dartmouth College, 2002” by Paula Keppie

Art and language are two ways humans express themselves, and both can be intertwined into one image. This is the premise of Kaviar Forge & Gallery’s latest exhibition, “Image & Word,” which opens Friday, Feb. 22, and features artwork by 26 artists from eight states.

Each piece either features art with words alongside — like Bob Allen’s mixed-media collage “Zero, Jack, Dick” — or utilizes text as the primary visual component — like Mark Needham’s sculpture “Literal Chair.”

Gallery Manager Kayla Bischoff tells Insider this is the second text-based art show Kaviar has hosted, and the first one, in 2017, drew so many thought-provoking pieces, she decided to do it again.

“Literal Chair” by Mark Needham

“I was excited to see how artists continue to use written word in their visual art practice in 2019,” she says, adding that the show features 30 pieces from 26 artists — 14 from Kentucky and two from Southern Indiana. “Text and visual art connect us not only with people around the world, but also with those of the past and future.”

A good representation of the show is the mixed-media painting by Louisville artist and poet Paula Keppie titled “Mr. Rogers Commencement Address, Dartmouth College, 2002.” It was created as a response to the attack on a Pittsburgh Synagogue in October of 2018, and it incorporates words from an inspirational speech given by Fred Rogers.

In her artist’s statement, Keppie explained, “As I wrote the words, over and over, they became a meditation, my own mantra of hope carried out into the world.”

While Bischoff is thrilled with everything in the exhibit, one of her favorite pieces is Needham’s “Literal Chair,” mentioned above.

“It’s a playfully clever take on the semantics of the word, by creating a ‘literal chair’ from the letters that spell out the word ‘chair,'” says Bischoff. “It brings to mind the Joseph Kosuth conceptual art installation, ‘One and Three Chairs, 1965.’ ”

Another she likes is Tina Ybarra’s “Lesson Erased: Dunces Prevail,” a trompe l’oeil oil painting that mimics the appearance of a smeared green chalk board complete with written word and dunce cap doodles.

“While the piece is visually playful, the artist is critiquing the education system and lack of accountability in the classroom,” she explains.

“Zero, Jack, Dick” by Bob Allen

Bischoff says that while text in art is nothing new, she hopes this exhibit will shed light on the current socio-political climate and technological advances, which allow for powerful, playful and innovative statements. Twitter, anyone?

“I hope to discover that the versatility of text in contemporary art encourages the viewer to reflect on a deeper level,” she adds.

“Image & Word” opens Friday, Feb. 22, with a reception from 6 to 8 p.m. It continues through April 6. Kaviar Forge & Gallery is located at 147 Stevenson Ave. near Mellwood and Frankfort avenues.

Sara Havens

Sara Havens

Sara Havens is the Culture Editor at Insider Louisville, known around town as the Bar Belle (barbelleblog.com). She's a former editor of LEO Weekly and has written for Playboy and The Alcohol Professor. Havens is the author of two books: "The Bar Belle" and "The Bar Belle Vol. 2."