I came across Tyree Callahan’s Chromatic Typewriter some time ago, and at the time I thought it a thing of great beauty both conceptually and as a piece of art. Unlike most visual images that we are bombarded with on a daily basis in the name of art or communication, this one has not left my mind, so that probably makes it worth sharing on this blog.
Tyree Callahan is an abstract painter based in Bellingham, Washington. One day he tried to use an old typewriter in his studio to add text to one of his in-progress paintings. He inserted the painting into the carriage to commence typing and was struck by an idea. “Seeing that art in the typewriter’s carriage,” he said, “just made me think of how interesting it would be to be able to ‘type’ up a painting.” It took him a few months to find a suitable typewriter and modify it so that it was operational, but the result is a sturdy vintage typewriter upgraded with colored keys, and turned into a kind of mechanized paintbrush.
However, no matter what colour you have on the key, a typewriter ribbon only applies black ink; so without the definition of any ribbon containing the colour, you have to live with what you get. But for me that’s the real beauty of it. Callahan has used it to create the “paragraph” you see in the image here to the right which, in my opinion, is not only an expressive artwork, but also serves to illustrate the visual connections between art and language.