Rosen playfully reconfigures and reframes language to great effect. Her interest in words concerns both their form and content, whereby the physicality and visual representation of words are exactingly composed against their meaning to create unique provocations. As the artist remarks, “The co-incidence of message and structure is the point where the work happens.” In her strikingly simple compositions, she is able to at once tap into the concrete nature of words – her bold, block capital letters appear rigid and fixed – but then with a sleight of hand, and mind, unsettle and realign their meanings. Rosen is known for her striking use of colour to nudge new meaning and readings into sight. Indeed, she treats language as a kind of readymade, making precise adjustments to colour and placement to draw out a double or hidden meaning.
In Rosen’s words, 'IOU' is a “found textual treasure which required minor adjustments to colour to address major historical wrongs”. Created amid a series of protests that started in 2016 against the construction of a major oil pipeline through America’s Midwest, the work sends a direct message about dispossession and occupation – and about how the mistreatments of the colonial process continue today. The pipeline in question is the Dakota Access, which runs proximate of Standing Rock Sioux reservation. Despite the community’s concerns around the risk its construction posed to their access to clean drinking water and to their supply of water for agricultural purposes, the US government annulled the review process and approved the completion of the pipeline in 2017. 'IOU' stands in solidarity with the Sioux community, recognising their sovereignty by offering “both a promise and an apology”.
Shown in 1 exhibition
Kay Rosen: The complete letterpress works, 1984-2017, Krakow Witkin Gallery, Boston, 29 Apr 2017–03 Jun 2017