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Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein published only two books during his lifetime. One was Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1921), his first major treatise on the relationship between words, images, and meaning. The other was a dictionary that he wrote for his pupils in rural Austria during a stint as an elementary school teacher from 1920 to 1926. The dictionary anticipated a dramatic shift in the philosopher’s thinking as he began to see words’ meanings as culturally specific rather than universal.
Badlands Unlimited, the press founded by artist Paul Chan in 2010, recently released the first-ever English translation of Wittgenstein’s dictionary. The cartoonish brush and ink drawings that Chan made to illustrate the terms — using his non-dominant hand, a learning exercise — are now on view at Greene Naftali. The childlike drawings are characterized by a sense of receptiveness, as if Chan, guided by the dictionary, allowed associative images to rise to the surface in an experiential exploration of how meaning is made. For the word “culture”, Chan playfully drew admirers snapping pictures of his own inflatable “breathers”, exhibited by the gallery last year; for “lawyer”, he depicted the beloved late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Seen today in the midst of a global health crisis, and perhaps particularly in hard-hit New York City, many of the word-pictures are colored by the coronavirus pandemic: “mask,” “flu,” “epidemic.” Chan’s sweeping history painting-style rendering of “epidemic” depicts corpses in body bags, emulating Matisse’s “La danse” amid crying medical workers, hospital patients, a city literally turned upside down, and a rat grasping a slice of pizza. What will these things mean in some other place, in some other time?
Editor’s note: This review has been updated to reflect the materials used by the artist. The drawings were made with brush and ink.
Paul Chan: Drawings for Word Book by Ludwig Wittgenstein continues through December 19 at Greene Naftali (508 West 26th Street, Chelsea, Manhattan).
“Black infants in America are now more than twice as likely to die as white infants—11.3 per 1,000 black babies, compared with 4.9 per 1,000 white babies, according to the most recent government data—a racial disparity that is actually wider than in 1850, 15 years before the end of slavery, when most black women were…
he ownership of images has a long and nuanced legal history, which has evolved dramatically in recent years as cultural standards and photographic technologies have rapidly advanced
The show, which honors the 50th anniversary of an exhibition history once ignored, continues a series of projects documenting Wilmington’s contemporary art scene.
Renty and his daughter Delia. Renty was an enslaved African, kidnapped from the Congo, sold and forced into slave labor on the South Carolina plantation of B.F. Taylor
What is the relation between possessing a person, possessing their image, and dispossessing their progeny
As a scholar of African American history and photography whose work has focused on the status of violent images in museums and archives, I fully support the validity of Ms. Tamara Lanier’s claim and the amicus brief.
Two K-12 art teachers will each receive a $1,000 cash gift and an additional $500 to put toward classroom art supplies. Nominations are due October 31.
The daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor, Delia, Drana, Alfred, Jack, George Fassena, and Jem remained in an unused storage cabinet until 1975, when it was discovered by an employee of the Peabody Museum.
I am writing in support of the amicus curiae brief submitted by Professor Ariella Aïsha Azoulay of Brown University for the full restitution of the daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor and his daughter Delia, currently held by Harvard University, to their familial descendant, Tamara Lanier.
We cannot be indifferent to the long-lasting effects of photography. The photographs at the center of Lanier v. Harvard are relentless in making Renty and Delia Taylor work and perform as slaves. The pain inflicted on them has not ceased. Photography has the capacity to propagate harm, and we have the moral obligation to interrupt…