Dena Yago, Pain & Easy

Poetry and the visual arts have been bedfellows throughout the course of the twentieth century. The two forms played equal parts in futurism, surrealism, and Dada, and conceptualism’s engagement with language has led a younger generation of poets to lay claim to conceptual art as the seed for their use of appropriation and systems-based writing and their interest in the verbal raised to visuality. This brand of conceptual writing has made the barrier between camps highly porous, so much so that Dena Yago gives equal weight to her photographic works and her poems, seeing neither as subordinate to the other.

In her current series of works, produced specifically for this exhibition, Yago further presses on the idea of written language as something that should be seen as much as it is read. The words—somewhere between short-form poems and fragmentary phrases—are rendered in malleable rubber letters that fold over and collapse, reducing legibility as such. Instead the sly and subtle alterations of everyday speech for which she is known are reduced to a ghostly dimension in which the shape, contour, and sound of misshapen words are prioritized over the imagined meaning of language and the intonations that might otherwise link certain phrases to their typographic forms.