The combination of art and text have been around for a long time. Think illuminated manuscripts and Arab calligraphy. However, in the 1960s, something shifted in the world of art.
Conceptual artists became less interested in building beautiful scrolling and objects of nature around letters and text. Instead, these artists decided to make the letters or text the subject of their art. One of the most well-known artist today making words into an art form is Jenny Holzer (1950-).
Holzer focuses on phrases that provoke thought. She started with street posters and has widened her "canvas" to include all sorts of materials including footstools, stone benches, photographs, t-shirts, LED signs on buildings and even the internet. (If you search the 'net, you will find websites that list her "truisms" such as, "Abuse of Power Comes as No Surprise" or "An Elite is Inevitable.")
(You can click on images to read.)
In time, Holzer began to use the text of poets, authors, and even declassified U.S. Army documents. These efforts seem to be the artist's attempt to elicit debate or perhaps even enlighten viewers. In either case, do you think that words can carry as much weight as images?