The Letters Project by Joseph Willaert

Joseph Willaert Brievenproject KASK image Jordi Coppers 33

S.M.A.K. shows the 'letter paintings' from Belgian artist Joseph Willaert.

In 1973, Belgian artist Joseph Willaert made a series of letters that he painted on large-scale canvases. He exhibited these so-called ‘letter paintings’ at the newly opened Elsa von Honolulu Loringhoven gallery in Ghent. From this event, only the brochure has been found. It gives something away, but not too much. ‘You are already contaminated enough by contemporary painters’, it reads.

The letters project by Joseph Willaert at S.M.A.K. includes eight of his ‘letter paintings’. They share an identical format and the text is painted in blue oil paint on canvas, a reference to the ink used in the original missives. Research has shown that at least six of these letters copy the real ones. The paintings are not just noteworthy artworks, therefore, but also unique art-historical sources. They allow us to delve deeper into the history of the ‘letter paintings’ and to also sketch out Joseph Willaert’s biography.

The exhibition is part of the Ghent, Playground of the Visual Arts (1957-1987) research project at KASK, School of Arts and was curated by Godart Bakkers. The group comprises Godart Bakkers, Koen Brams, Wouter De Vleeschouwer, Sofie Frederix and Naninga Lens. Lise Van Acker assisted with the research into the letter paintings.

Read the English translation of Joseph Willaert's Letter Paintings here

Also visit

Until 5 November 2023, you can visit the exhibition De klare kijk van Joseph Willaert in the Venetian galleries in Ostend, featuring a work from the S.M.A.K. collection.

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