October 4 – December 5, 2020


Broodthaers Society of America
520 West 143rd Street
New York, New York 10031

The Broodthaers Society of America is pleased to present WRECKED ALPHABET, an exhibition organized by Joe Scanlan and Eric Li that brings together over forty artists, graphic designers, musicians, and writers whose work engages the alphabet.

Many artists over the past 100 years have made productive use of the alphabet as a ‘thing’, from Dadaists and Concrete poets to Pop artists and the Oulipo Group. WRECKED ALPHABET takes cues from these legacies (and others) but focuses on recent practitioners. Four precedents in particular form the cornerstones of the show: Lee Friedlander’s Letters from the People (1994); Claudia Rankine’s The End of the Alphabet (1998); Christian Bök’s Eunoia (2001); and DexterSinister’s Letter & Spirit (2011). Each has had a profound effect on how we see, think, and speak the Roman alphabet today. In these tumultuous times, the very system of signs that we use to express our thoughts is open to exuberant scrutiny.

The artists in the show by turns elide the alphabet, puzzle it, dismantle it, and politicize it, all the while transforming its letters into a more chimerical system of signs. Through such techniques as substitution, erasure, collage, pruning, rebus-making, word play, and univocalizing, the cumulative effect is a heightened awareness of the alphabet as a discrete set of objects, a semiotic system, and a social construct. In this spirit, WRECKED ALPHABET will exist as a gallery show, a reading room, and a website simultaneously, making no distinction as to whether one context presents a better experience than any other.

Font design is a critical aspect of the show, given the extraordinary range of images and materials current artists are using to render it, abetted by conceptual license and aided by ever more accessible computer software. Artists in WRECKED ALPHABET have made fonts out of everything from street signs, hair extensions, and Jeff Bezos to mea culpas, cocoa butter, and Blinky Palermo. The title of the show itself is set in Ugly Gerry, a font designed by Ben Doessel and James Lee using twenty-six of the most gerrymandered congressional districts in the United States.

Including work by Aarati Akkapeddi, Tife Aladesuru, the Alphabettes, Kara Bressler, Augusto De Campos, Elisabeth S. Clark, Allana Clarke, Nazli Ercan, Carson Gutierrez, Lily Healey, Katie Holten, Inger Christensen, Peter Kazantsev, Udamsak Krisanamis, Eunice Lee, Estibaliz Matulewicz, New York Modular Society, Paulina Olowska, Omnivore, Neeta Patel, Pope.L, Q Takeki Maeda & Jay Chung, Srikanth Reddy, Kay Rosen, Laurel Schwulst, Kevin Tseng, Isabel Urbina Peña, Cynthia Vu, Claire Wahmanholm, Sydney Wilder, Amy Yao, and Jonathan Zong.

WRECKED ALPHABET will open by appointment on Sunday, 4 October from 1:00–5:00pm and will continue through Saturday, 5 December. The opening reception and gallery visits are limited to four persons at once. Face masks are required and a distance of at least six feet / two meters will be maintained at all times.

The Broodthaers Society of America provides a forum in which the United States might contemplate itself through the life and work of Marcel Broodthaers. When Marcel Broodthaers died at the relatively young age of fifty-two, he left behind many unfinished works on such themes as art and merchandise, the amateur, laziness, and the alphabet. The Broodthaers Society periodically mounts exhibitions that expand on these ideas, ever mindful of how knowledge is enhanced through the act of making things. You can also contact us at member@broodthaers.us, find us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and Instagram @broodthaers.

Broodthaers Society of America

I, too, wondered