By Amber Mongelluzzo
Typography and art have gone hand-in-hand since 3100 BC, first used by the Egyptians in their architecture and writing (designbro). Since then, the evolution of computers and graphic design has utilized typography to expand the visual arts. I use typography in my art all the time. I start by writing out a poem or a statement and then I translate it into code. Different codes are used based on what fits with the theme of the writing. One artist that uses typography in their art is Ralph Ueltzhoeffer. Born in 1966 in Mannheim, Germany, Ralph Ueltzhoeffer started his text portrait in 1984 (Yazter). Most of his portraits were public installations, being on billboards and such. He creates portraits out of the biographies of famous people. Which reminded me of a research project I did. Once, I wrote a report about Samuel Morse and translated that paper into morse code, then created a portrait of Samuel Morse from the coded words.
Ueltzhoeffer quotes, “typography is an art form in itself that combines carefully chosen and arranged fonts with visual elements, sometimes as a relatively straightforward communication device and sometimes as artistic expression” (Hosmer, Katie). This could not be more true. Although my artwork is not always as clear as using codes, it is still a form of communication and artistic expression. With typography, there is an extra layer of communication, allowing the viewer to either understand more about the art or challenge their train of thought. Using typography also adds to the story telling. Each word is carefully chosen to express the mood of the story.
The type of type chosen for art is important to convey mood as well. While Ueltzhoeffer stays consistent with his type, using smooth and rounded lettering, he varies in capital and lowercase. For example, his biographies are exact word for word, down to the punctuation. One of his portraits is just the word manchester over and over again in all caps, but others have both lowercase and capital. Most of his portraits are in grayscale, but some are in color. Either way, he utilizes value in his art by changing individual letters' hue and shade or tint. This is also shown in the negative space. Each word seems like it is carefully placed, leaving the negative space to be either in line with each other or at random, depending on the type and word choice used.
The photographs by Ralph Ueltzhoffer are truly stunning and an inspiration to me to create with typography. Ueltzhoffer utilizes words, value, and color in a creative way by always using a black background. This makes the words pop more and add an extra layer of dimension to the photographs. Ueltzhoffer is able to be realism shading based on words, that is something that I struggle with especially when working traditionally. After studying Ueltzhoffer, I think I have a better understanding on how to gain more value in my work. Ralph Ueltzhoffer is truly a master at his artwork with gaining fine detail
“Design Is to Share.” Yatzer, https://www.yatzer.com/. Hosmer, Katie.
“Famous Portraits Built from Thousands of Words.” My Modern Met, 16 June 2016, https://mymodernmet.com/ralph-ueltzhoeffer-textportraits/.
“Ralph Ueltzhoeffer: Art Concepts London.” AC/LDN, https://www.artconcepts.london/ralphueltzhoefferartconceptslondon.
“Typography.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., https://www.britannica.com/technology/typography