The UQAM Centre de design and VOX present ART + TYPO : an exhibition on the close and intriguing link between art and typography

Anette Lenz
Images taken from the interactive installation Constellation Voyelles n°1, 2024

Dates : From February 22 to April 14 2024
Opening night : Wednesday, February 21 at 6 p.m.
Curators : Angela Grauerholz and Robert Fones

Klaus Scherübel 
Jack Torrance’s All Work and No Play
2006-2008 Book, embossed cloth binding, dust jacket, approx 600 pages, 28.5 × 23 × 6 cm photo credit: M.K

February 15, 2024 ─ The UQAM Centre de design and VOX centre de l’image contemporaine come together to present ART + TYPO. This exhibition has been specially developed by curators Angela Grauerholz (photographer) and Robert Fones (visual artist), two artists who share a long-standing interest in the history of typography, innovative experiments, art and design.

ART + TYPO presents works by fifteen artists, including six at the Centre de design who use typography in innovative ways in their artistic practice. The exhibition turns the spotlight on two disciplines rarely addressed together : art and typography.

The exhibition crosses disciplines, but focuses above all on typography as a formal and expressive art form essentially driven by research and a deep engagement with language, materiality and conceptual forms.

Typographic characters began to be used in art at the beginning of the 20th century, when Picasso and Braque introduced letters into their paintings using industrially manufactured metal stencils. Typography has also been an essential element in the artwork of graphic design artists and writers associated with futurism, the Dada movement and Russian Constructivism. In the 1950s and 1960s, pop art and the conceptual art movement initiated a new resurgence of typography in art, integrating advertising, signage and political, literary and philosophical texts into their work.

Robert Fones
Casein on wood, plywood shelf
97.15 × 91.44 × 30.48 cm
Photo credit: Peter MacCallum

ART + TYPO focuses on art that incorporates the mechanically reproducible form of typography. However, some of the works in the exhibition do not fit easily into this category. This contradiction reflects the living nature of typographic forms, which is underpinned by their many variations.

Angela Grauerholz
Extract from Schriftbilder
20 photograms, gelatin silver print 40.6 x 51 cm (framed: 48.3 x 61 cm)

Together, the Centre de design and VOX are also presenting a number of important historical precedents in the form of printed books as well as an extensive documentation. The curators consider the production of exhibitions to be part of their practice and have therefore included their own work in the exhibition. They have also included works from their private collections.

An in situ work in the UQAM Design pavilion staircase and at VOX

Cree artist Joi T. Arcand contributes to the exhibition with the work ᐁᑳᐏᔭ ᐋᑲᔮᓯᒧ Don’t Speak English, which incorporates vinyl lettering applied to the staircase of UQAM’s Design pavilion and a neon sign installed at VOX. Both feature Cree syllabic characters. It represents not only an important statement about languages – especially indigenous language – but Arcand also offers an invitation to discover her own exploration and struggle to learn her community’s language of Plains Cree as a way “to bring awareness to the precarious state of many Indegenous languages.”

Joi T. Arcand
êkawiya âkayâsîmo / Don’t Speak English
Metallic vinyl, on-site installation at the Winnipeg Art Gallery
Photo credit : Scott Benesiinaabandan

The messages can be read by those who know the Cree alphabet but are also addressed to those who cannot. Arcand’s use of the vernacular language introduces a subtle humor by appropriating these common elements, past and present, found in our western environments. This subtle and intelligent humor is also found in the small poster of her Cree “Comic Sans” alphabet, as if suggesting that there would be a serif version of the Cree alphabet.

Artists at the UQAM Centre de design

Visual artist Robert Fones has been working with letterforms and typography throughout his career. He has often used letterforms for their historical references, overlaid with photographic images that suggest a narrative separate from the historical association of the typeface. Often these photographic images are restricted by or cut off by the outline of the letterform, as if the letterform were a window through which one is looking at a historical narrative. For Fones, the typeface and the image are both vehicles for cultural forms traveling through time, each with its own historical origin and associations. Fones has employed various strategies for disrupting the recognizability of letterforms or the process of reading. These strategies range from increasing the size of type to a monumental scale, and rotating letterforms and painting them with colours based on their forms, to allowing letters in text to flow together or be arbitrarily disjointed. Through these devices, Fones hopes to draw attention to the inherent message carried by both the typeface, the photographic image (if used) and the text itself that he often draws from literary sources. He also wants to allow the viewer to become aware of their own interpretation of the combined forms that are presented to them.

Photographer Angela Grauerholz appropriates examples of characters found in a catalogue published by the Imprimerie nationale de France and offers twenty black and white photograms. Attracted by the beauty of different textures and the consistency of the presentation of these catalogue pages, the artist has chosen to copy some of the most ancient languages and writings that almost all disapeared today. The decision to title them with the German word Schriftbilder becomes obvious when one understands its literal translation ‘’writing image’’, which tells us how they could be read today. Printing the pages through photographic means (re)iterates the idea of their being images. They become reminders of their former existence of these ancient languages and writings, brought back to life in another form and another context. Interpreting these texts or understanding their origins is impossible for the lay person and must remain a mystery, a theme that runs through many of the artist’s work. The loss of languages is a reminder that type does not preserve a language if there are no longer any speakers to speak it. Typefaces in the collection of the Imprimerie Nationale can only preserve the appearance of the language, not the living language itself.

The German graphic designer Anette Lenz who lives and work in Paris, is one of the most influential designers today. In 2020, she was given the opportunity to transform the whole Museum Angewandte Kunst in Frankfurt (Germany) into one colossal and highly immersive graphic world, her world, a culmination of her experience and expertise. The result was an exceedingly sophisticated game of ever-new interrelationships between information and imagery: playing with superimposition, three-dimensionality and spatiality, and drawing inspiration from a wide variety of materials and media. These theatrical installations reflect Lenz’s process-driven design practice, which—rather than turning the viewer into consumers—offers us an opportunity to become participants in the inventive play with type, colour, graphics, photography and film animation etc.

Originally a graphic designer, Arnaud Maggs was interested in the subtle differences between similar things. This interest led him to take sequential frontal and profile photographs of friends and people he admired, build a collection of white porcelain jugs and photograph Parisian hotel signs in 1991.  The subtle differences between things within each category revealed the passage of time, the unique details of different manufacturers, and the distinguishing characteristics of serif and sans-serif type design. As a graphic designer, Maggs was very interested in the history of typography and collected numerous examples of graphic design and type specimen books. He brought many of his design skills to his art, producing many works that were either strictly typographic, such as The Complete Prestige Jazz Series, or showcased graphic designs from the past that evoked social, cultural, or industrial histories.

Remarkable works by artist and editor Klaus Scherübel stand at an ambivalent position at the frontier between conceptual art and visual experimental writing form, layering multiple modern and modernist paradigms. In his works, which are often textual using a diversity of media such as photography, video, paint, installation, publication, and exhibition, Scherübel questions the artistic activity, his representations, his production conditions as well as reception. In reference to a book in multiple components, his achievements are now organized in ‘’volumes’’ including the production of artworks as well as specific interventions, exhibitions, or publications.

Activities at the UQAM Centre de design

Nuit blanche à Montréal

As part of the exhibition ART + TYPO, night owls can participate in a playful workshop for free on the theme of typography and art. Families and children are welcome.

Date: March 2 2024
6 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Guided tours of the exhibitions for groups

Offered at all times free of charge.
Reservation required at the email address


ART + TYPO at VOX centre de l’image contemporaine

Dates : February 23 to June 22 2024
Opening night : February 22 at 5 p.m.
Artists: Joi T. Arcand, Matt Donovan and Hallie Siegel, Robert Fones, Hamlet Lavastida, Kelly Mark, Judith Poirier, Allen Ruppersberg, Charles Sandison, karen elaine spencer, David Tomas

Address and opening hours

UQAM Centre de design
1440, Sanguinet Street
Berri-UQAM station

Wednesday – Sunday 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Free entry


Telephone number: 514 987-3395

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VOX centre de l’image contemporaine
2, Sainte-Catherine St. (4th floor)
Saint-Laurent station

Tuesday – Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Free entry


Phone number: 514 390-0382
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Link to promotional images

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Julie Meunier
Communication consultant
Press relations and special events division
Communications service
Phone number : 514 987-3000, ext. 1707
Cellphone : 514 895-0134