curatorial intensive

Visual Writings. Reading the Unreadable.

By Esteban King Álvarez

For Curatorial Intensive in New Orleans

Visual Writings. Reading the Unreadable.

Curated by Esteban King Álvarez

The objective of this project is to show a selection of ways in which contemporary artists have approached writing. In general terms, the show offers a panorama of a multiplicity of solutions that artists have ventured in the field of writings, inscriptions and traces. The idea is to generate a context to think writing in art beyond the scope of the conceptual practices of the 60’s and the history of concrete and visual poetry, as well as beyond the canonical figures identified with these movements. Until now, my research has focused on analyzing the Mexican panorama. However, the objective of this project is to broaden the discussion and to think on international terms. The project encompasses an exhibition, an educational program, and a publication.

By approaching language and writing from the perspective of contemporary artistic practices, the exhibition seeks to break the conventions decreed by the academics of language and subvert the usual norms. In this sense, the artistic processes are analyzed as a creative power that allows understanding different phenomena far from the traditional disciplines.

The curatorial proposal does not seek to group artists from a historical or geographical genealogy, but in terms of aesthetic categories, the procedures they use or the problems they encompass. For this reason, the exhibition has three lines of work:

1.    The visuality/materiality of writing. This section explores the different supports—two-dimensional, three-dimensional or digital—in which artists have approached writing, as well as the ways in which they explore its visuality beyond the meaning of the words.

2.    Visual texts and notations. Although the pieces in this group are not conventional writings, they can be deciphered and interpreted. Alongside the works of artists who have created their own codified languages, this section collects unconventional notations and scores.

3.    Scribbles and the unreadable. The third part is devoted to the work of artists who have invented their own writings. Even though these pieces don’t belong to a determined system, they can be understood from a visual perspective and offer the possibility to think about communication, language, and writing from the perspective of the legibility and illegibility.

Public Program

More than a parallel program, the public program is an essential part of the project. A substantial part of the activities will include contemporary artists to speak about other historical artists who worked with writings and text, such as:

●    Carlos Amorales on Henri Michaux, Oyvind Fahlstrom and Hans Arp
●    Verónica Gerber on Carl André, Marcel Broodthaers and Mirtha Dermisache
●    José Luis Sánchez Rull on León Ferrari, Ed Ruscha and Cy Twombly
●    Daniela Bojórquez Vértiz on Magali Lara and Hanne Darvoben

There are also other activities:

●    A panel on the history of writing technologies and writing in the digital era
●    A panel with a typographist, a printer, an artist, and a writer
●    A concert of experimental music with the pieces as scores
●    An activation related to the sphere of experimental poetry and literature
●    A temporal library open to the public, in the exhibition space, comprised of books by many different researchers and artists (in collaboration with LLEOM)


The publication of the works is not only the catalogue of the exhibition, but a new space to expand the contents of the project. It will include the artworks, historical references and three (non-academic) writings, as well as visual and illegible texts. It will be created in collaboration with a designer who is also an artist, and who is constantly thinking the possibilities of a publication beyond the memoir or the traditional art catalogue.

Preliminary artists: Dick Verdult (AR), Magali Lara (MX), John Cage (USA), Verónica Gerber Bicceci (MX), Mirtha Dermisache (AR), León Ferrari (AR), Santiago Merino (MX), Karl Holmqvist (SW).


1.    Verónica Gerber, Los hablantes, 2016.
2.    Magali Lara, Libro de las secuencias, 1978.
3.    John Cage, Concert for Piano and Orchestra, 1962.
4.    Dick Verdult, Sin título, 2013.
5.    Mirtha Dermisache, Sin título, c. 1970.
6.    LLEOM, El tejido continúa en lo Ilegible, 2017.


Learn More

To learn more about this proposal please email Esteban King Álvarez at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). To learn more about the Curatorial Intensive email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

About the Curator

Esteban King Álvarez

Esteban King Álvarez (México City, 1986) is researcher, art historian and curator. He holds a BA in History and a MA in Art History from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). His work focuses on modern and contemporary art and its relationships with music and literature. He has developed projects that interwove sound, archive and writing from the perspective of art history and contemporary art. He has written several articles in books and art catalogues, among others: “Strindentism and Urban Imaginaries” for the catalogue Avant-garde in Mexico, 1915-1940 (National Museum of Art, 2013); “New narrative strategies: the works of Salvador Elizondo” for the catalogue Defying stability: artistic processes in Mexico, 1952-1967 (MUAC, 2014) and “Sonorama. Art and technology from hi-fi to MP3” for the catalogue Sonorama (Museo Universitario del Chopo, 2014). He is curator of the collective exhibitions Transcripciones (Museo Universitario del Chopo, 2014), Una red de líneas que se intersecan (ESPAC, 2016) and La nueva onda del silencio (El cuarto de máquinas, 2017), among many others. From 2012 to 2015 he was curator and chief researcher at the Museo Universitario del Chopo, and from 2015 to 2019 curator and editor at ESPAC, Espacio de Arte Contemporáneo. He’s currently studying a PHD on Art History at UNAM, is part of the curatorial team of the XIV Bienal FEMSA Inestimable Azar, and works as a freelance writer.

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