A THOUSAND WORDS is a variable work which utilizes the Skeletons font to produce both a book and an installation of the pages of the book in paper "tile" form. As an unbound book, the work may be installed in any number of various ways and patterns, depending on the site and the preference of the curator. Owing to the ephemeral nature of the work, the prints are frequently destroyed and/or disseminated when the work is removed from a given site.

Each page consists of one word relating to human existence in general and more specifically, as represented by the skeleton letters, the image thus qualifying the text. The work suggests several questions. Is a picture "worth a thousand words"? Are a thousand words worth one picture? Where is the picture? What is the picture?

Initially exhibited in 1991 at the C.A.G.E. gallery in Cincinnati and at the University Memorial Center, University of Colorado at Boulder, it has been exhibited several times since then. In 1993 it was installed at the Walker's Point Center for the Arts in Milwuakee, Wisconsin and was acquired by the Denver Art Museum. It was exhibited in their "First Sightings, Recent Modern & Contemporary Acquisitions" exhibition in that same year and again in "The View from Denver", at the Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien, in Vienna, Austria in 1997. It has been exhibited as part of the Denver Art Museum's Contemporary and Modern collection in 1999-2000.

In 2004 the work was shown at the Amos Eno Gallery in New York City and in 2006 as part of the "Decades of Influence" exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver.

Writing in the AFCA Newsletter, Winter 2000, Alice Abrams recounts her experience with A THOUSAND WORDS: "I often sneak into the quiet space in the Hirschfeld video room at the Denver Art Museum, snap on the headphones, and pop in a tape. The first time I went to view a tape I became more intrigued with the wall of the viewing room. There I was, sitting down comfortably waiting for the tape to roll and I thought, "Hey, wait a minute." I was mesmerized by the wall. What fun! There were hundreds of words on the wall; each word tightly boxed in a rectangle. Skipping from word to word the game began; associations tumbled frenetically. Looking more closely, the artist Jim Johnson, had created the letters using human skeletons in acrobatic postures contorted to create each word. We the viewers create the cooncepts conjured from association with the artist's words. What a wonderful leap from form to thought, while viewers are creating their own stories. Each of our stories are different. We come to the wall with our own history, our own values. We each see the wall differently. Each interpretation is valid. Each interpretation helps us further to understand ourselves and our view of the world. "WOW". That's "Art" for me. The artist got me to respond."


1. FINEART Forum, Vol. 5, No. 5, Berkeley, 1991
2. Leonardo, Vol. 25, No. 1, pp. 93-94, San Francisco, 1992
3. The View from Denver, Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung pp. 268-269, Ludwig, Vienna, Austria, 1997
4. AFCA Newsletter, Alice Abrams, Denver Art Museum, Denver, CO, Winter, 2000
5. Artforms, Preble, Preble and Frank, p. 181, Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ.,2002
6. Decades of Influence/Extended Remix, Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver, pp. 20, 27, 38, 50, 136-137, 236. Denver, CO, 2007