GLYPTOTEK / by jac lahav

The 42 Social Club is pleased to present Glyptotek, a solo exhibition by NY-based artist Alexandra Zsigmond. The show features recent paintings and prints that explore the intersection of sculpture, typography, and semiotics.

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A glyptotek is a collection of sculptures; the word is derived from the Greek verb γλύφω glýphō (to carve, sculpt, engrave) and the word θήκη thḗkē (a storage place). Glýphō is also the root of ‘glyph,’ a word whose meaning hovers between two and three-dimensional space. In typography, a ‘glyph’ refers to a unique symbol, unit, or mark within a larger set; collectively, these symbols form a written language. And yet ‘glyph’ also means ‘a sculpted figure,’ lending it an innate connection to the three-dimensional that is easily forgotten in an era of digital word processing. This etymological connection hearkens back to the origins of both writing and printing. Petroglyphs carved into rocks are considered proto-writing; ancient languages such as Sumerian cuneiform and Egyptian hieroglyphics were inscribed into clay or carved into stone. And the first printing presses in Asia and Europe relied on small porcelain, wood, or metal sculptures of individual letters that could be endlessly rearranged to form any text.  

Glyptotek meditates on this obscured connection between sculpture and written language. It reimagines the three-dimensional work of three modern sculptors—Fernando Botero, Constantin Brâncuși, and Alberto Giacometti—as collections of two-dimensional glyphs. Each of these artists were inspired by ancient cultures, and Botero and Giacometti drew directly from Egyptian hieroglyphics in the creation of their work. This exhibition illuminates those influences. Zsigmond’s paintings and prints rearrange these artists’ sculptures into a visual glyptotek of alphabets, charts, type specimens, and manuscripts. In doing so, they challenge us to consider the sculptor as scribe, carving written languages that follow visible yet enigmatic rules.


Artist Bio

Alexandra Zsigmond (b. 1982) is a New York-based visual artist, originally from San Francisco. Her paintings and drawings visualize semiotic systems in philosophy, art history, and cognitive science. Alexandra is also a curator and designer of exhibitions, books, and newspapers, and from 2010-17 was an art director for The New York Times’ Opinion and Sunday Review sections. She is a recipient of the Public Scholars Fellowship from Humanities New York in 2015, and has been a resident at Spruceton Inn (Catskills, NY, 2019) and Casa Tres Patios (Medellín, Colombia, 2017). Alexandra is a frequent public speaker and has given talks and workshops on editorial art worldwide.