The latest offering at Hot Art Wet City explores the tradition of lettering and calligraphy with a young contemporary eye and sense of humor the gallery has built up a reputation of displaying. Drawing from the hand-lettered signs some of us might remember from our childhood (or at the very least nostalgic internet fodder), TYPO revels in typographic experimentation. While some artists drew their inspiration quite literally from lettering of the past, others placed the calligraphic tradition in new visual contexts, giving a sometimes dated and dusty craft some new legs to run with.
One of my favorite pieces simply recreated the classic “ice” lettering seen ubiquitously at gas stations everywhere. The lack of subtlety in the message is always refreshing for me (Hey! Let’s make “ice” look ice-y. Groundbreaking design.) Seeing it re-created in a curated space reminded me of what an awesome and absurd vernacular moment this was in typographic history, the kind of moment that’s drifting out of contemporary signage, but also finding a resurgence within the art and design community.
Bennett Slater’s combination of classic calligraphy and lettering with sublime renderings of fungi represents the kind of typographic re-purposing many of the artists played with at the show. The type here steps away from its utilitarian intent and takes on artistic ambitions. Whether beautiful or haunting, these are compositions that we can hang on our walls and reflect on, rather than simply read.
Coming full circle, works like Ali Bruce’s “Lose Some Time” use illustrative qualities to make “type as art,” while employing the vernacular subject matter of traditional sign painting. The world where these new school typographic signs and posters occupy the cultural landscape as ubiquitously as their forefathers is an exciting place to imagine.
Hot Art Wet City also offers an array of non-typographic material, but continues the theme of re-purposing childhood memories in fun, new forms (looking for a lovingly crafted portrait of the Back to the Future cast? How about an unsettling interpretation of your favorite doll? You’ll find it here.) In my dreams I own that glorious painting of two fitness babes, or the ceramic tile set of of fabulous nude women playing sports, but there is lots of delightful smaller items to satisfy your cravings for cool (and locally made) stuff.