Kay Rosen — This Means War …

February 22–December 11, 2015

MINI/Goethe-Institut Curatorial Residencies Ludlow 38 is pleased to present a public project by American artist Kay Rosen. On view through the end of 2015, This Means War … is a site-specific installation on the facade of the art space. The work acts as a persistent reminder that this is a make-or-break year in terms of global climate change.

The black letters show up sharply against the yellow background in Rosen’s design for an awning. The double meaning that arises from the one-word message is due to the structure of the words and letterforms N and M. The (extra) stroke of the letter M changes WARNING to WARMING and the same position of N and M in both words allows the meaning of the word to evolve. The M leg, distinguished by red, also functions as a thermometer, linguistically measuring the heat. The awning, itself an element that protects from the weather, visualizes our dependency on it.

Following the People’s Climate March in September 2014 in New York and around the world as well as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in December 2014 in Lima, the culminating meeting on global warming will be held in Paris in December of this year. Since the Kyoto Protocol expired in 2012, no formal international agreement has been reached. The conference intended to set enforceable goals to reduce greenhouse emissions before temperatures rise beyond a tipping point of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. This Means War … draws attention to the importance of worldwide governmental action in 2015. It serves as a link between New York, where the headquarters of the United Nations are located, and Paris, enlisting the public in the urgency of this conference.

The playful interaction of the letters on the awning invites a reconsideration of each person’s responsibility to reduce greenhouse emissions and creates an opportunity to rethink the future of our planet. Each letter is taken in one by one and meaning is created, disrupted, and altered. After her training in languages and linguistics, Rosen rejected academia in favor of a visual approach to language, starting over as a “self-taught” artist from square one. She began an exploration of the intersection of meaning and structure in language through color, materials, scale, composition, and graphic design. In a 2010 interview Rosen said, “When it comes to reading my work, throw out all the rules you ever learned: spelling, spacing, capitalization, margins, linear reading, composition … all your old reading habits will be useless.”

Kay Rosen’s (born in 1944, Texas) language-based works have been exhibited in museums and institutions nationally and internationally for over three decades, including The Art Institute of Chicago; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Vancouver Contemporary Art Gallery; Kunsthalle Bielefeld; MoMA, New York; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein; Aspen Art Museum; Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco; Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art; Whitney Biennial, New York; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC; and Witte de With, Rotterdam. Rosen has been awarded three National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, an Anonymous Was a Woman award, and an SJ Weiler Fund award. She has taught at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago for over 20 years.

Curated by Vivien Trommer