Pictures to be Read

Bauermeister has described her lens boxes as “thought boxes,” receptacles for ideas, quotations, puns,  and scribbles.  The hand-written texts and words that fill their interiors and surfaces are minutely drawn.  As a native speaker of German living in the U.S., the artist has said that their often humorous word plays derive from seeing a “language from the outside.” Her texts became an especially important component of the composition of the boxes. 

Bauermeister’s “scribblings” function as both language and image. Each lens box contains a variety of marks and signs: hand-drawn patterns, arrows, dots, circles, and lines that transform into fragments of letters, words, and cartoon-like figures. 

The artist’s working method and use of words are reminiscent of “automatic writing” (écriture automatique), a form of spontaneous writing practiced by the Surrealists of the earlier twentieth century.  Bauermeister has described her practice as “a double process of spontaneous ideas which come up during the process of working and … a preconceived idea,” subject to change as her composition evolves.



Image: Mary Bauermeister. German, born 1934. Writing, 1966. Acrylic, ink, plaster, glass, optical lenses on fiberboard. 33 1/2 x 33 3/4 x 6 in. Brooklyn Museum, Carll H. de Silver Fund, Caroline A. L. Pratt Fund and Ella C. Woodward Fund. 67.273.