Sarah Buchanan on “Context Posters”Posted: October 8, 2012
Blog Post by: Sarah Buchanan, Stamp Gallery Staff, Class of 2013, Art History
One of the most notable works in our current exhibition Olivia Robinson: 1899-1902, and certainly the work that draws the most attention, would have to be “Context Poster: 1899-1902”. These 192 signs display what appears to be hundreds of randomly selected words assembled predominately in groups of three, with several posters presenting a single word.
While the posters may appear to be monochromatic and printed, upon closer viewing one can see that there is actually a combination of both black and navy blue hued words with slight imperfections, all individually and diligently hand painted by the artist herself. Although they may seem to be random, a very specific process was used in order to assemble this seemingly odd combination of words. Olivia Robinson’s exhibition stresses themes of labor, power, and resourcefulness, done so through commentary on the life of her metaphoric alter ego living between the years 1899-1902 who harvested and sold salt from her own sweat.
To produce these signs Olivia first chose the several words that best exemplify the message of her exhibition such as Salt, Labor, Power, Work, Health, Share, and Sweat. These words were individually entered into a database, along with the time period 1899-1902, to produce a list of other words often used in conjunction with the specific word in various forms of media at that specific time. These words were then collected and hand painted onto posters; the original words displayed individually and the produced words compiled into groups of three. This process not only verbally demonstrates the themes of this collection, but also creates exquisite and quirky accidental poetry. The outcomes are sad, powerful, humorous, or nonsensical, but all are equally beautiful, containing deep-seeded meaning.