Broodthaers Society of America
Ben Doessel & James Lee, <i>Ugly Gerry</i> font design, 2019
Ben Doessel & James Lee, Ugly Gerry font design, 2019
October 4 – December 5, 2020
Saturdays 1-6pm and by appointment

Broodthaers Society of America
520 West 143rd Street
New York, New York 10031
take the A,B,C,D or 1 train to 145th Street

The BSA is located on the parlor floor of a Harlem brownstone and is only accessible by stairs. If you have an access request, please contact us via email or call +1 718 916 7938 to make arrangements

Aarati Akkapeddi
Tife Aladesuru
the Alphabettes
Christian Bök
Kara Bressler
Augusto De Campos
Sierra Castaneda
Elisabeth S. Clark
Allana Clarke
Dexter Sinister
Katy Didden
Ben Doessel & James Lee
Nazli Ercan
Lee Friedlander
Carson Gutierrez
Lily Healey
Katie Holten
Inger Christensen
Peter Kazantsev
Caitlin Keogh
Eunice Lee
Eric Li
Estibaliz Matulewicz
New York Modular Society
Paulina Olowska
Neeta Patel
Q Takeki Maeda & Jay Chung
Claudia Rankine
Srikanth Reddy
Kay Rosen
Laurel Schwulst
Kevin Tseng
Isabel Urbina Peña
Cynthia Vu
Claire Wahmanholm
Sydney Wilder
Amy Yao
Jonathan Zong

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 one hundred years have made 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 (2012). Each has had a profound effect on how we see, think, and speak the Latin alphabet today. In these tumultuous times, the very institution of signs that we use to express our thoughts is open to exuberant scrutiny.

The artists in this 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 erasure, collage, pruning, rebus-making, word play, animation, 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 an exhibition, a reading room, and a website simultaneously, with no distinction as to whether any 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 artists are using to render it, aided by conceptual license and abetted by more accessible computer software. Artists in WRECKED ALPHABET have made fonts out of everything from street signs and hair extensions to 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 from twenty-six of the most gerrymandered congressional districts in the United States.

WRECKED ALPHABET will also feature three new texts: Katy Didden’s Ore Choir, a manuscript of thirty poems composed in the voice of lava, unearthed from eight hundred years of writing from and about Iceland; Broodthaers: On Des!!!gn, a scholarly pamphlet by Eric Li on the crucial role type design plays in our reception of Marcel Broodthaers’ industrial poems; and Alphabetland, the first studio album in thirty-five years by the LA-based punk band X.

The Broodthaers Society provides a forum in which America might contemplate itself through the life and work of Marcel Broodthaers. When Broodthaers died at the relatively young age of fifty-two, he left behind many unfinished works on such themes as the amateur, laziness, art and merchandise, and the alphabet. The Broodthaers Society periodically mounts exhibitions that expand on these ideas, ever mindful of the knowledge gained by making things.

Joe Scanlan is an artist and director of the Broodthaers Society of America. Eric Li is an independent graphic designer and a software developer at MoMA.