First patented in 1868, and marketed and sold by the Remington Arms Company in 1873, the typewriter reached peak production in the mid-1970s. Demand began to wane in the 1980s with the advent of the word processor, followed by the personal computer. In 1995, Smith Corona, once the typewriter's market leader, declared bankruptcy.
When Howard Kettler designed the typeface Courier New for IBM in 1955, it exemplified the era's quest for streamlined efficiency. Heralded for its "modern, progressive look, "it became the most popular typeface used on typewriters for the next thirty years. In February 2004, the U.S. State Department dropped Courier New as its standard typeface, replacing it with the "crisper, cleaner, more modern look" of New Times Roman (created in 1932 by British typographer Stanley Morison for the Times of London).
The exhibition Courier presents eleven artists who have created works that are rooted in the physical, communicative, or iconic properties of the typewriter. From emblematic homage to pointed social critique, the works selected demonstrate that, despite its obsolete status, the typewriter remains a potent carrier of untapped ideas. The typewriter's expressive potential is explored in a range of mediums including film, printmaking, photography, installation, and the typewriter itself.
Several artists present work that references the typewriter as a touchstone to history; others explore the properties of a specific typewriter. The IBM Selectric and the IBM Wheelwriter are the principal mark-making tools for two of the artists, while another makes drawings on a reconfigured typewriter with an extended carriage and invented alphabet. For some, the physical act of typing serves to chart the passage of time; for others, typing affords the opportunity to record thoughts, embed memories, or send messages. Two artists revive the distinct mechanical sounds of the typewriter in short films that underscore the complex relationship between man and machine in the last century, while another presents a computer project activated by typing on a keyboard reprogrammed with the artist's own "language of icons."
By conflating message and medium, Courier explores how outmoded means of communication continue to hold sway in the contemporary imagination. For each of the artists in Courier, the typewriter or the act of typing remains a vital conduit by which thoughts and ideas are translated into new visual forms.
WAMC The Roundtable
Albany Student Television feature
Curator: Corinna Ripps Schaming, Associate Director/Curator, University Art Museum.
2010, softcover, 60 pages, 8 x 10 ¼ inches, 35 color and 5 b&w images. Includes artists Leona Christie/Gavin Christie, Daniela Comani, Lee Etheredge IV, Ann Hamilton, William Kentridge, Matt Liddle, Elena del Rivero, Allyson Strafella, Ignacio Uriarte, and Xu Bing. Essays by James Siena, Barry Sanders, and Corinna Ripps Schaming. ISBN: 9780910763400
The exhibition and publication are made possible with support from the UAlbany Office of the President, Office of the Provost, Center for Jewish Studies, University Auxiliary Services (UAS), the Ellsworth Kelly Foundation, and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.