52 Walker opens an exhibition featuring the work of Amsterdam-based artist Nora Turato

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52 Walker opens an exhibition featuring the work of Amsterdam-based artist Nora Turato
Installation view, Nora Turato: govern me harder, April 8–July 1, 2022, 52 Walker, New York. Courtesy 52 Walker, New York.

NEW YORK, NY.- 52 Walker is presenting its third exhibition, govern me harder, featuring the work of Amsterdam-based artist Nora Turato. Throughout her oeuvre, which spans performance, video, graphic design, and wall work, Turato boldly deploys text in various permutations to alchemize the onslaught of language in our contemporary moment and to challenge the continued dominance of the modernist vernacular in visual culture. In govern me harder, the artist debuts a series of enamel panels, site-specific murals, and a custom typeface. It is her first solo gallery exhibition in the United States and follows her March 2022 presentation, pool 5, at The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Trained as a graphic designer, Turato utilizes the written word and speech to conceive her works. Seemingly free-associative but deliberately scripted, the artist’s endless snarl of words is culled from social media platforms, news headlines, exhibition press releases, and her own thoughts, among other sources. (The title of the exhibition, govern me harder, is taken from a sticker Turato came upon in a dog park in Amsterdam.) In addition to her text-based research, Turato trains with a Hollywood voice coach to further shape how she molds and manipulates her speech. These compiled scripts form the base for her punchy performances as well as her wall works, the words abstracted and recapitulated into familiar yet nonsensical morsels of communication that take on the contemporary glossolalic tones of consumer capitalism and internet culture.

Turato created three signature murals, hand-painted and fitted on-site, which take as their point of departure 52 Walker’s archetypal downtown New York architecture. The murals are stenciled onto the walls and colored manually—despite giving the impression, with their clean lines, of being vinyl cutouts or projected images—and bring the vocabulary of street signage and glossy print advertisements into the gallery space. Accompanying the mural, seven enamel works are on view. Though their surfaces epitomize the lustrous, blown-up appearance of post-proof graphic design, the enamel works are painstakingly produced, applied with pigment and mounted on steel. Absurdist as the sequences of layered texts appear to be, they express moments of visual clarity to the viewer: Turato has long deployed the iconic design of cigarette packs and the sharply contrasting color palettes of logo and brand design in her text-based work.

In collaboration with the Amsterdam-based Jung-Lee Type Foundry and with consultation from graphic designer Sabo Day, Turato has created a bespoke typeface for govern me harder. The custom font chaotically riffs on the clean, sans serif letters and characters of Helvetica, considered by many the gold standard of modernist type for the Latin alphabet. The text in the exhibited works is set in the bespoke typeface, which redraws the paradigmatic Helvetica into bulging, seductive swoops and whorls and subverts the principles of so-called good typography by ignoring established guidelines for uniformity and size, in addition to those for kerning, leading, and tracking. Interrupting the legibility and flow of the featured language and the patrilineal legacy of modernist graphic design, the typographic algorithm invites new and varied meanings in the reading of the work.

Embracing slower modes of production in these exhibited works, the artist simultaneously reduces and amplifies the omnipresent nature of typography and graphic design. govern me harder takes stock of how power and order are communicated through this medium, undermining its canon while exploding and recontextualizing the language to which we are exposed daily. Sifting through the debris of culture, Turato attempts to unravel the tenets of graphic design, reveals the myriad ways in which text and speech are deployed, and furthers tension between form and content.

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