Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Derek Sullivan | Cover to Cover

Derek Sullivan's exhibition Cover to Cover opens this Friday night from 6 to 9 pm at Galerie Emmanuel Herve.

For more information, visit the gallery website here.

"Moving between drawing and sculpture, the work of Derek Sullivan often takes the form of the double or decoy. He deftly weaves together the intersecting histories of modernist architecture, design, and abstraction into new relations of signification, paying particular attention to recurring patterns and forms. Through an elaborate process of copying, and often with the most basic materials—wood, pencil crayon, gouache, printed paper—Sullivan transforms his original referents in such a way to contest the very idea of meaning and authorship.

At the heart of his practice is the book—its conventions, its histories, and its possibilities. Sullivan takes up the history of the artist’s book in particular, and looks back to artists who explored the formal and conceptual apparatus of the codex in an effort to reinvent the form of the book today.

The starting point for Sullivan’s recent exhibition is Cover to Cover, the 1975 book by Canadian artist Michael Snow, one of the most seminal artists’ books produced in the history of the genre. The book is entirely composed of images reproduced to the edge of the page. There is no text, save the title printed on the spine. The sequence of images is made by two photographers aiming their cameras at the artist who is caught in their photographic crossfire. Their exposures are synchronized and result in two parallel sequences that form a pair of images printed recto-verso on each page of the book, from cover to cover. The book collapses form and image in such a way that the traditional codex is no longer linear, but becomes circular.

In playful homage, Sullivan has created a series of dust jackets for Snow’s seminal book. Similarly titled Cover to Cover (2014), Sullivan’s dustjackets are a proposition to disguise, contain and ultimately reinvent the original. They are distinctly handmade, incorporating found images and collage, text and drawing, as a way to imagine new trajectories for the book. Sullivan’s proposition for different covers for Snow’s Cover to Cover plays on the multiple meanings of the word "cover" as both a book cover, but also a cover version in music when a new interpretation is made of an old hit.

Sullivan’s dust jacket decoys are paired with Snow’s Nose (2014), a large Xerographic print of Michael Snow’s face—a close-up of the artist’s nose. The work is a reference to Nikolai Gogol’s satirical short story, The Nose (1836), in which a Russian bureaucrat loses his nose only to find that it has taken on a life of its own. Snow’s Nose is also a play on words. In English, “nose” and “knows” are homonyms, two words that sound exactly the same in speech, but have different etymologies and meanings. Here we see the artist’s nose, but it also suggests that Michael Snow has the knowledge of something that we don’t. What does Snow know? Where is Snow’s nose? Finally Snow’s Nose is accompanied sculptural artist&rsq uo;s book in the form of a handkerchief.

Together the works in the exhibition tease out the history of the artist book alongside the question of artistic influence and lineage, in a mischievous and adoring homage to the legacy of Michael Snow."

- Kathleen Ritter

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