Untitled (Figures with writing) by Dwight Mackintosh

Curator Matthew Arient says that text often takes on a “literal aspect” in the work of self-taught visual artists. They may have a specific religious, personal, or philosophical message to convey, and words are the simplest and surest way to get it across to viewers. Other untrained artists are more interested in the visual uses of text—creating forms or tying together disparate elements. Any messages they send are likely to be more ambiguous. In curating You Better Be Listening: Text in Self-Taught Art, Arient has chosen pieces that reflect both the literal and not-so-literal approaches. Mixed-media works by California figurative artist Dwight Mackintosh often feature loopy lines that run horizontally and repeat like they’re having endless conversations with themselves. Royal Robertson, a self-declared prophet, used words to communicate his misogynistic beliefs. And, not surprisingly given their titles, Reverend Howard Finster and Sister Gertrude Morgan both incorporated Biblical passages and themes. You might want to bring your reading glasses to this one.