Friday, May 10, 2024

Derek Sullivan | Evidence of the Avant Garde Ex-Library

Derek Sullivan
Evidence of the Avant Garde Ex-Library
Sackville/Toronto, Canada: Umbrella Projects/Art Metropole, 2021
[unpaginated], 26.5 x 19.7 x .07 cm., softcover
Edition of 400

For many years now, Derek Sullivan has been drawing the 16-page signatures from Evidence of the Avant Garde Since 1957, a catalogue of ephemeral artworks published by Art Metropole in 1984.  Painstakingly rendered by hand, the resulting book drawings are then disrupted with additional interventionist illustrations: rainbows, ragweed, dandelions, birds, and other items are drawn as if scattered across the pages.

This project binds these drawings together to mimic the original book, a copy of which the artist bought at a library deaccession sale for four dollars. The cover of Ex-Library is the only aspect of the book not hand-drawn, it is replicated to look exactly like Sullivan's library-laminated well-worn copy, complete with classification label and remainder sale sticker. In this way the object of the book functions like a decoy for the original, something Sullivan has consistently worked with in his practice. 

Priced the same as the 1984 publication, this new bookwork examines “the poetics of circulating artworks and the content that they pick up along the way.”

Evidence of the Avant Garde Ex-Library is available for purchase from Struts, The Owens Art Gallery and Art Metropole, for twenty dollars.

"As a meditation on both the subject and object of things Derek Sullivan continues his experiment in “slow reading” with the final half of the Evidence of the Avant Garde (ex-library) project. He presents 6 “press sheet” drawings of Art Metropole’s remarkable 1984 publication Evidence of the Avant Garde Since 1957 (an exhibition catalogue charting Art Met's first ten years via their collection of distributed artists projects). The drawings are created using a somewhat shabby ex-library copy and formatted as printer sheets (as they might have appeared as they came off the printing press). Each of the drawings are interrupted by a new secondary scatter that creates an assemblage of content and form that weaves both the material of the catalogue with observations from Sullivan’s every day. Weeds, prisms, rainbows, exhibition pamphlets, metro tickets obscure the pages as a poetic reflection on the unpredictable pathways and networks that works-in-multiple move upon.

The exhibition also includes a selection of 2021 drawings from the series Every day is the same. Every day is different. This project includes a sequence of daily drawings that arises out of tracings of an Enzo Mari-designed Formosa perpetual calendar (produced by Danese Milano in the early 1960s). The calendar, an ex-display from a bookstore Sullivan worked at in his 20’s, seemed to speak to the current rhythms of living in pandemic lockdown. Pandemic time wanes like that of a perpetual calendar — as an asynchronous rhythm that hums like the murmured heartbeat of the Avant Garde. The process of a drawing-a-day: Trace each panel. Update the day. Finish the drawing before going to bed. Each one different, each one the same.”
- BlogTO, about Sullivan’s September 2021 exhibition at Susan Hobbs Gallery

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