What do a medieval epitaph, a picture-poem by Günter Brus and VALIE EXPORT's video poem "Visual Text: Finger Poem" have in common? It is the combination of words and images, which has been used as a means of existential expression since the beginning of time.

"Images in Language and the Language of Images“ focuses on the wide field of word-image art from the Middle Ages until today. During the Middle Ages, words and images were used to convey religious ideas and complex theological thought, while Modernity uses letters as visual signs in and of themselves: they become images. They were used in a similar way, when images were deemed inappropriate, as in the religious art of Islam, Judaism, or during the early European Middle Ages.

The exhibition spans serial works featuring words and images by Blake, Kubin, Brus, as well as Gothic evangeliaries to words as images: In the 9th century, Hrabanus Maurus used letters and images for complex theological concepts, while a thousand years later, Alighiero Boetti turns letters into images – exposing an entirely new layer. Otto Mauer Prize recipients Siggi Hofer and Kamen Stoyanov work with script in space, as does Josef Bauer with his poetic word sculptures, while Jaume Plensa, Timm Ulrichs, and Birgit Jürgenssen deal with concepts of script and body. The medieval objects present a balanced relationship, as they feature their respective donors’ inscriptions as well as additional information as to their contents. By way of contrast, Goya and Hogarth provide biting commentary in their engravings while contemporary artists such as Johanna Kandl or Muntean/Rosenblum supplement their paintings with text.

The objects in this exhibition – international loans and works from the museum’s own collections – are wonderful examples showing that words and images aren’t opposites, but have complemented each other for millennia in the struggle for existential expression.