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 Michael Winkler  (1952 - )

About: Michael Winkler


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Lived/Active: Maine/Ohio      Known for: abstract, conceptual

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following, submitted November 2004, is from the artist whose website is

Since the early 80's, Michael Winkler has explored the visual results of converting written language into abstract forms. He uses the spelling of words as encoded instructions for the creation of abstract imagery: In this ongoing project, the 26 letters of the Roman Alphabet are represented by a unique circular arrangement of 26 points. By drawing lines, which interconnect the letter-points in the sequence of the spelling of a word (in any language which can be written using the Roman Alphabet), an abstract image is created. There are 325 possible connecting lines within the circle of 26 points, which in combination create an almost infinite number of different forms.

Except for establishing the process, Winkler has no control over how the spelled-forms look; the design of the circle's letter-points never changes, and the spelling-sequence of each word determines how the letter-points are to be connected. What is surprising is that these word-images often appear to be more than random configurations of interconnected chords inscribed within a circle. They can be quite meaningful when considered in relation to the word by which they were generated.

Michael Winkler, born February 28th, 1952 in Lima, Ohio, began his creative life as a composer of experimental music. He then turned his attention to visual art. In 1980, he was Managing Director of The Electronic Music Studio, And/Or, a multi-disciplinary contemporary art center. He was commissioned to produce a piece for Public Radio as part of The Great Ether Bank, New Music for Public Radio Project. While working on a text-sound composition, he decided to arrange letters of the alphabet into a circular formation and draw geometric patterns.

As he was developing his circle of letters, he decided to make the arrangement a bit more complex. He discovered that many visual patterns created words, not random sequences of letters. While working the front desk at And/Or, he was investigating new words when an art center director noticed his work, and offered him what became his first solo exhibition at Marymoor Art Center, in March 1981.

Since that exhibition, Winkler has used his word-images as the basis for works in different media: drawings, paintings, artists' books, intermedia performances and installations. His most recent works have been large-scale, mixed-media wall installations like the 10' by 28' ft. piece at the Kasseler KunstVerein in Germany. This piece, "Regular, Linear, Axial Chaos", consists of 4 circular canvases (4' ft.dia.) depicting the spelled-forms of the four words from the title and 64 cards, which make a statement of 64 spelled-forms.

Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart, Germany; Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
King Stephen Museum, Szekesfehervar, Hungary
National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, India

Poetic Positions (exhibition catalog: Kassel Art Museum, Germany-2004), Jurgen O. Olbrich, Bernhard Balkenhol, & Werner Demme.
Imagining Language (MIT Press-1998), Jed Rasula and Steve McCaffery.
Methodology of Creation (Commercial Photo Magazine Publications, Japan-1992), Kumi Konno.

Rampike Magazine, Vol.13, #1, 2002: "Spelled-Forms", Karl Jirgens (Ed.), pp.34-35.
New Arts Program Publication Series (booklet), Sep./Nov., 2000: "A Conversation with Michael Winkler, Word Sculptor", James Carrol, 26 pages.
Lightworks, #20/21, 1990: (review of Winkler's book, Extreme Measures), p.63. The Print Collectors Newsletter, Vol.20, #2, May/June, 1989: (review of Extreme Measures), Nancy Princenthal, p.68.
Afterimage, Vol.2, #1&2, Summer, 1983: (review of Winkler's book, Regular Words), Skuta Helgason, pp. 50-51.

Members Special Award (1987/89), American Society of Composers, Authors, & Publishers
Artist Fellowship (1985), National Endowment for the Arts;
Line Grant (1985), Line II Association, New York;
Artist Fellowship (1984), Pennsylvania. Council on the Arts.

Michael Winkler-Word Images: 1982-2004, Rosenwald Gallery, University of Pennsylvania, 2004.
Poetic Positions, Kasseler KunstVerein, Germany, 2004.
Live on Paper, Berman Museum of Art, Collegeville, PA, 2003.
Text Out of Context: Durner/Ligon/Pavlow/Winkler, The Aldrich Museum's Soho Center for Visual Artists, New York, NY, 1991.
The Mindful Page, Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, TX, 1989.
3rd Atlanta Photo Salon, Nexus Contemporary Art Center, Atlanta, GA, 1988.
Sculpture/Text, Franklin Furnace, New York, NY, 1985.

Wave Shapes & Letter Structures (intermedia work), And/Or, Seattle, 1981.
Art Research Center, Kansas City, MO, 1984.
Word Works-Part 1 (solo intermedia work), University of Maryland, Baltimore, 1985.
Word Works (intermedia work), New Music America Festival, Philadelphia, 1987.
Kansas City Art Institute (Photo/Video Gallery), 1987.
University of Massachusetts (Lowell), 1994.
New Arts Program, Kutztown, PA, 2000.

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