06.09 - 23.11.1996

In Kay Rosen's paintings, words play while standing in place, making her scrupulously legible imagery move past its simple, concrete demonstrations of readability into tactfully performative positions that are as riveting as they are riveted.

The visual stability of her canvases is not upset even when a momentarily fixed meaning of a depicted word or phrase disappears, suddenly to be replaced by a new, seemingly at times unrelated connotation : it can be seen as a hybrid word-as-picture counterpart to the psychologically loaded double-image (like the duck/rabbit optical game cited by Wittgenstein and painted by Johns) in which a form refuses to have only one interpretation, remaining inconstant within the rigidity of its structure and shape. Probably no other artist today is more clearly demonstrating the sophisticated visual capabilities of the formally standardized, yet stylistically flexible letter-forms that help most of us convey our ideas to others; moreover, Rosen repeatedly proves herself to be so adept at making puns in her pictures that one wonders how she manages to construct façades that more than handle the sheer overloading of multiple interpretations instigated by her messages, without killing the messenger.

These paintings weather the threat of the signs they display, signs composed of words that have been put in the funny yet canny position ( by either a writer or a reader ) of saying one thing (or another) and meaning another (or an other another), and vice versa, without losing their visual impact, conceptual wit, or respect for significance and its communal value.

Terry S. Myers
From the text Kay Rosen in Arts, April 1992, page 75.