In her language-based artworks, Kay Rosen investigates how color, scale, material, composition, and typography affect meaning and structure. Her imaginative strategies challenge the way we see and interpret the texts we read. The artist created SORRY in response to the renovation of the East Building façade. She started with the word itself—an apology for inconvenience—and then isolated and repeated so. By combining the linguistic unit so with a comma and a hyphen, Rosen generates a range of expressions, from a half-hearted apology to a sincere one.
SORRY also poses bigger questions. Whose big voice might be expressing sorrow? The museum’s? The artist’s? A spiritual power’s? Who are the intended recipients of the apology? And sorry for what? The artist leaves that open to interpretation.
Rosen visited the National Gallery in early 2020 to familiarize herself with the site and to discuss the project’s initial requirements to create a text-based work that would provide wayfinding during the museum’s renovations. She considered the East Building’s location and role as a public museum, its visitors, and the rich context of current events. The artist designed all aspects of the text, including the color, spacing, font, and height, and selected the blue color for the temporary wall. A sign painter completed the artwork following Rosen’s instructions.