Kay Rosen’s Words

Scrabble anyone? Try this one…PNUUMLDE.  Hmm. I stared at those alternating charcoal and slate gray letters on the wall of the Kay Rosen exhibit at the Barbara Krakow gallery in Boston on Friday for a long time. I sounded out the letters. P n u u m b l d e. Pnuumlde. Nothing came to me. What’s a Pnuumlde? Sounds like something from Dr. Seuss. But as I continued to look at it I found my eyes swinging back and forth from the tallest “P” to the tallest “E.” Aha. Pendulum.

Like Andy Warhol with his Campbell soup cans, Kay Rosen takes everyday words, pulls them out of context, and morphs them into something that is both playful and provocative.

Try this one…


N              E

In Tea? Entity? In Tent E? Why the triangular shape with a “T” at the peak? I couldn’t figure this one out. I cheated and looked at the title. (The answer: “Tent.”)

According to ARTFORUM magazine, Rosen was trained as a linguist. She started “manipulating words —via juxtaposition, scale, and color—in order to highlight their inherent fluidity and its complex implications.”

Last one…



Two LIEs? What’s missing? Why the blank spaces? Why one stacked on the other? Again, I am stumped. But when I glance at the title…“Slice of Life”…I feel a chill pass through me.

If art’s job is to make you look at the world differently then Kay Rosen, in this tiny exhibit, has done her job.

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