The complex interrelation of script and image in contemporary art is the focus of the large-scale exhibition Art and Alphabet, taking place across two floors of the Hamburger Kunsthalle’s Gallery of Contemporary Art. On view will be works in a variety of media by 22 international artists from 15 different countries that deal with elements of a broad range of languages and writing systems, exploring their impact as visual signs, expanding on them, and transforming them artistically.

Whether in painting, drawing, sculpture, film, video, photography, installations, or performative works: we observe here how artists manipulate various alphabets (Armenian, Arabic, Latin, etc.) and challenge their potency for lending a cultural identity. Text is overlaid to the point of being illegible, or is atomized into its constituent elements; handwritten passages take on a life of their own as vibrant, powerful lines of energy; and letters are intoned and thus translated into sound units or enacted in body language. This creates a tension-charged back-and-forth oscillation between the decoding and reading of text versus the perception and contemplation of imagery.

Presented are artworks from the last ten years, with a few groups of works created specifically for the show. A bridge to the past is created by a few works from the 1960s and 70s interspersed throughout the exhibition.