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Conceptual writing in the spotlight at Toronto’s Power Plant art gallery

Fiona Banner’s “1066,” 2010/2012. Indian ink on wall. Courtesy the artist (photo: Toni Hafkenscheid)

If you’re in Toronto, this weekend is your last chance to check out Post Script: Writing After Conceptual Art, a literary-minded exhibition at the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery.

A survey show of more than 50 artists from the 1960s to the present, Post Script is the first exhibition to examine the history of the Conceptual writing and text-based art movement that took hold in the 1960s. Artists include Andy Warhol, Kenneth Goldsmith, Dan Graham, derek beaulieu, and Sol LeWitt. The media are diverse “ painting, drawings, prints, film and video, photographs, sculpture, sound installations, and iPad applications “ but all in some way connect back to textual communication.

Many pieces in the show appropriate or reconsider older works, such as “1066,” in which U.K. artist Fiona Banner takes over a wall to narrate the Battle of Hastings as depicted on the 70-metre-long Bayeux Tapestry. New York’s Jen Bervin hand-embroidered “The Composite Marks of Fascicle (28 & 40)” to remove the words from Emily Dickinson’s original handwritten poetry manuscripts. Bervin restores the author’s use of crosses (+) to identify variant words, which over the years have vanished from most editions. U.K. artist Nick Thurston’s triptych, “He Wore, He Might Find, & He Moved,” takes as source material the experimental syntax found in Samuel Beckett’s last novel, Watt.

Exhibition co-curator Andrea Andersson, from the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, says she and and co-curator Nora Burnett Abrams also purposely included work from writers who don’t identify as artists, including Mexican poet and translator Monica de la Torre and Calgary sound poet Christian Bök. For “Protein 13,” Bök transformed a poem into a DNA sequence, the sculptural manifestation of which appears in the gallery.

“We hoped to demonstrate that many contemporary  artists and writers, though often segregated by discipline, are not only employing similar strategies for artistic generation, but also yielding works that are largely formally indistinguishable,” says Andersson. “In certain ways, these new ways of working are reflective of our cultural shift from print to digital culture. Artists and writers are using common tools of new technology. But a closer look also suggests that many of these artists and writers are looking back to the same historical precedents.”

Post Script closes Sept. 2. Admission is free.