Justin Quinn, brought to you by the letter E

From Untitled, by Justin Quinn
From Untitled, by Justin Quinn

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Justin Quinn's Deeper Wonders than the Waves is a series of drawings, photocopies of drawings, letterpress books, and mixed-media work that all have one thing in common: the letter E. There are thousands of Es that make up the building blocks of the pieces, including upside down Es, sideways Es, Es that are clumped together, Es strewn about, Es spiraled, Es made to look like creatures, like flowers, like water, and Es melted into abstraction. 

Worlds with Side Worlds' by Justin Quinn
Worlds with Side Worlds' by Justin Quinn
MAEP curator Christopher Atkins explains in his essay, which accompanies the exhibit, that the E theme comes from tumbling E charts, which eye doctors use on patients who cannot read. Rather than identifying different letters, as they would on a Snellen Eye Chart, the patients describe whether the E is facing up, down, left, or right. 

Atkins goes on to say that Quinn creates the pieces by transposing bits of classical literature, changing each letter to an E, but keeping some of syntactical information, such as punctuation and paragraph shapes. He then transforms the text into different shapes and textures, using them as a medium to create the piece. 

The works resemble calligrams, poems that create a visual image using words such as Guilaume Apollinaire's famous book of poems called Calligrammes. Except there are no discernable words, only patterns of the letter E that look like words. When repeated so many times, the E ceases to be a letter, but rather ends up being more like one of Georges Seurat's dots, working in connection with the other E's to make up something bigger.

'Left Hand Tower' by Justin Quinn
'Left Hand Tower' by Justin Quinn
In some of the pieces -- such as Blind Side Tower, Idle Towers, and Forgotten Towers -- the Es are incorporated into mixed-media work, with gesso, ink, and/or collage. These works have a richness to them.

It's the Untitled photocopies that are the most fascinating, however, because they have nothing but the letters and the space between the letters to create the images. The works are at times whimsical, and at times reminiscent of some nightmare. They look like poetry, and it's tempting to try to guess what the words used to say before they were transformed. Like watching physical theater in another language, you get the gist of the text's meaning by the visual expression, the formation of words give new meaning to the words that once existed. 


"Deeper Wonders Than the Waves"
Showing along with "U.N.P.A.C. (Uniform Non-Coding Parallax Autostereogrammic Cyclopti-cryptograms)" by Luke Aleckson
MAEP Galleries
Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Through September 30, 2012
There will be artists' talks at 7 p.m. Thursday, August 16
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Minneapolis Institute of Art

2400 Third Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55404



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