The use of text can be seen in some of the most avant-garde artwork of the twentieth century; Rene Magritte used it as an instrument for Surrealist subversion when he inscribed his painting with the statement "ceci n'est pas une pipe", and Dadaist artists used it to describe anti-art and anti-aesthetic sentiment.
The work of some of the most famous conceptual artists of the 1960s began, for the first time, to use written language as an artwork in itself, without juxtaposition with images. The book is structured in two parts: the first consists of essays on the subject.
These include an essay setting the context of the medium's development historically, an essay addressing the use of text in a contemporary context and the reasons for its relevance and proliferation today, and a reprint of a seminal text on the subject.
The second part is a lavishly illustrated survey of artists who use text as an artistic medium and for whom it constitutes a major aspect of their work.Artists included are: Kasimir Malevich, Alexander Rodchenko, Tristan Tzara, Francis Picabia, Aleksandra Mir, Art & Language, BANK, Barbara Kruger, Bob and Roberta Smith, Bruce Nauman, Cy Twombly, Ed Ruscha, El Lissitzky, Fiona Banner, Freee, Gilbert and George, Grayson Perry, Guillaume Apollinaire, Hanne Darboven, Jason Rhoades, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jenny Holzer, Jim Dine, John Baldessari, Joe Tilson, Joseph Beuys, Joseph Kosuth, Keith Arnatt, Kurt Schwitters, Lawrence Weiner, Rene Magritte, Mark Titchner, Mel Bochner, On Kawara, Oyvind Fahlstrom, Peter Blake, Raymond Pettibon, Richard Artschwager, Richard Prince, Jasper Johns, Roni Horn, Roy Lichtenstein, Vito Acconci, Ugo Rondinone, Andy Warhol, Robert Indiana, Tracey Emin.