Monday, August 2, 2021

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

Last week Roula and I hosted a Zoom conversation with Derek Sullivan as one of our final duties as Co-Directors of Struts Gallery. Unsurprisingly, it is the publications that we feel most proud of during our brief stint at the Artist Run Centre (though the Cube event was pretty magical, too). These include a series of eight posters, a record by Beverly Glenn-Copeland, a book by Nic Wilson, a forthcoming book by Izzy Francolini, and the above title by Sullivan. 

The latter three were a result of a collaboration between Struts Gallery and the Owens Art Gallery, which we dubbed Umbrella Projects (a slight inside joke as umbrellas are pretty useless here, because of the super strong winds). The plan was to join forces/resources to facilitate non-gallery programming during the pandemic. I was bored at the prospect of countless online exhibitions so we took out ads in magazines asking artists what they wanted to do instead. 

Derek Sullivan's proposal was one of the stand-outs of the almost hundred applications we received.  

For many years now, he 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 (see previous post).  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.”

It's a really gorgeous bookwork. It's available for purchase from Struts, The Owens Art Gallery and Art Metropole, for twenty dollars.

Some quick housekeeping: big thanks to our collaborators at the Owens (Emily Falvey, Lucy MacDonald and Rachel Thorton), to the Umbrella jurors (Lucas Morneau, Lacey Decker Hawthorne, Rebecca Blankert, Hannah Bridger, EF, LM, RT), and to everyone at Art Met for joining on as co-publishers (Jonathan Middleton, Blair Swann, Sara Maston). 

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Evidence of the Avant Garde Since 1957


[Various Artists]
Evidence of the Avant Garde Since 1957
Toronto, Canada: Art Metropole, 1984
[unpaginated], 28 x 21 cm., softcover
Edition size unknown

Sub-titled Selected works from the Collection of Art Metropole Including Audio Tapes, Records, Videotapes, Film, Multiples, Kitsch, Manuscripts, Stamps, Buttons, Flyers, Posters, Correspondence, Catalogues, Porn, T-Shirts, Postcards, Drawings, Poems, Mailers, Books, Photographs, and Ephemera, this slim exhibition catalogue was published in conjunction with Art Metropole's 10th Anniversary exhibition, held November 17th to December 8th, 1984. 

According to AA Bronson's excellent afterword, he viewed Art Metropole as "a museum of cultural flotsam, housed in a home-made ark and cast on a sea of the very material it collects". The book and exhibition, then, was a reckoning with what it meant to collect material of this nature. These works included affordable items intended for wide[r] distribution (books, records, videos), works intended to only exist briefly (mailers, postcards, flyers, posters, business cards, questionaires, other ephemera), works intended to a have use-value (buttons, t-shirts) and items not necessarily considered art at all (kitsch, porn). 

Art Metropole (somewhat controversially) published one of the first series of affordable artists' VHS tapes, and a video program here features examples from those early cassettes (Lisa Steele, General Idea, Ant Farm, Les Levine, Colin Campbell, etc.). An audio program featured artists' records (Duchamp, Beuys, Kaprow, Nannucci), sound poetry (The Four Horsemen, bill bissett), noise rock and free jazz (CCMC, The Nihilist Spasm band) and pop crossovers (Laurie Anderson, The Residents). 

Examples of artist-designed magazine covers include Greg Curnoe's graphic for The Business Quarterly magazine and Roy Lichtenstein's portrait of Bobby Kennedy for a 1968 cover of Time magazine. 

Gathering items in my own collection that appear in the volume (see image, below), it became apparent how almost arbitrary some of the selections were, or at least beholden to personal taste. For example, there are half a dozen Something Else Press titles in the book: Claes Oldenburg, Dick Higgins, Geoff Hendricks, Robert Filliou, Ray Johnson and Walter Gutman. The latter - a stock market analyst - was included at the expense of SEP titles by John Cage, Gertrude Stein, Merce Cunningham, George Brecht, Al Hansen, Ruth Kraus, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Bern Porter, Marshall McLuhan and many others. One has to assume that the novelty of The Gutman Letter appealed to one of the exhibition's curators, and it was included for personal significance over archival importance. 

Most collections of ephemeral material have a degree of bias, not just of personal preference, but happenstance. Many of the items in this collection arrived in the mail, initially as part of the burgeoning Correspondence Art scene and as submissions for General Idea's FILE Megazine, and later as stock for the store. The collection had sold by the time I worked for the organization, but I recall Ann Dean buying a copy for the collection of everything  that they carried in the shop. Now housed at the National Gallery of Art in Ottawa, these works ultimately became too unwieldy for a small organization like Art Met to steward. Items other outfits would have deemed unworthy of collecting eventually - after twenty odd years - acquired enough value that Art Metropole had difficulty insuring them. 

Over a decade before that, their accumulation was just beginning to signify something larger - "evidence of a network of ideas and phenomenon which came to be known collectively as 'Conceptual Art' and the manifestations which continue to give life to many of the principles activated by that network of ideas" as Christina Ritche describes in her Introduction.

Other texts include John Goodwin's Foreward and a substantial personal reflection by Peggy Gale titled What About the Early Days? Designed by AA Bronson, the title is rounded out with a Chronology of Events and List of Publications. 

Artists featured in the volume include: 

Vito Acconci, Laurie Anderson, Carl Andre, Ant Farm, Eleanor Antin, Ida Applebroog, Shusaka Arakawa, Robert Ashley, David Askevold, Alice Aycock, John Baldessari, Robert Barry, Joseph Beuys, Dara Birnbaum, Mel Bochner, Alighiero Boetti, Christian Boltanski, George Brecht, Marcel Broodthaers, Stanley Brouwn, David Buchan, Hank Bull, Daniel Buren, James Lee Byars, Miriam Cahn, John Cage, Ulises Carrion, Sarah Charlesworth, Sandro Chia, Giuseppe Chiari, Francesco Clemente, James Collins, Claudio Costa, Robert Cumming, Greg Curnoe, Hanne Darboven, Constance De Jong, Tom Dean, Mario Diacono, Jan Dibbets, Jean Dubuffet, Marcel Duchamp, Mary Beth Edelson, Valie Export, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Robert Filliou, A.M. Fine, Hervé Fischer, Joel Fisher, Copp Fletcher, Robert Fones, Ken Friedman, Hamish Fulton, Phillip Galgiani, Eldon Garnet, Gilbert & George, Jochen Gerz, Dan Graham, John Greer, Hans Haacke, Keith Haring, Stephen Harris, Jan Herman, Geoff Hendricks, Dick Higgins, Susan Hiller, Hans Hollein, Jenny Holzer, Rebecca Horn, Douglas Huebler, Sonja Ivekovic, Jasper Johns, Ray Johnson, Joe Jones, On Kawara, Anselm Kiefer, Kijkhuis, Yves Klein, Joseph Kosuth, Jannis Kounellis, Vera Lemecha, Les Levine, Sol LeWitt, Tina Lhotsky, Roy Lichtenstein, Richard Long, Robert Longo, Nino Longobardi, Urs Luthi, George Maciunas, Arnaud Maggs, Liz Magor, Hansjorg Mayer,  Sandra Meigs, Mario Merz, Eric Metcalfe, Phillip Monk, Michael Morris, Muntadas, Ian Murray, Maurizio Nannucci, Opal L. Nations, Bruce Nauman, Linda Neaman, Al Neil, Hermann Nitsch, Barbara Noah, Arlene Golant, Claes Oldenburg, Luigi Ontani, Dennis Oppenheim, Nam June Paik, Giulio Paolini, Andy Patton, Steve Paxton, A.R. Penck, Giuseppe Penone, Bern Porter, Steve Reich, Lothar Reiners, James Riddle, David Rosenberg, Martha Rosler, Dieter Rot[h], Ed Ruscha, Lucas Samaras, Bernd Schmitz, Carolee Schneemann, Rudolf Schwarzkogler, Kurt Schwitters, Chieko Shiomi, Seth Siegelaub, Michael Snow, Valerie Solanas, Daniel Spoerri, Klaus Staeck, Paul Thek, Edwin Klein, Vincent Trasov, John Mitchell, Richard Tuttle, Cy Twombly, Ulay, Ben Vautier, Bernar Venet, Claudio Verna, Wolf Vostell, Martin Walde, Jeff Wall, Ian Wallace, Andy Warhol, Robert Watts, Lawerence Weiner, Stephan Willats, Emmett Williams, Martha Wilson, Robert Wilson, Krzysztof Wodiczko, Peter Wronski, Donna Wyszomierski, Keigo Yammamoto, La Monte Young, and many others.

Derek Sullivan recently re-drew the entire title by hand as Evidence Of the Avant Garde Ex-Library (see next post). 

Saturday, July 31, 2021



The above items - save for a few - all arrived in the mail in the time when this blog has been on semi-hiatus. They, and other neglected titles, will appear in the next week or two, now that things have wrapped up at Struts. 

Friday, July 30, 2021

Jiri Valoch | An Interrupted Poem / In Memory of d.a.levy

Jiri Valoch
An Interrupted Poem /  In Memory of d.a.levy
Toronto, Canada: Ganglia Press, 1969
[16 pp.], 11 x 7 cm., staple-bound
Edition of approx 100 copies

The 24th title in the "5¢ Mini Mimeo Series", which also included publications by Gerry Gilbert, Margaret Avison, Jiri Valoch, David UU, Bill Bissett, Victor Coleman, George Bowering, Michael Ondaatje, and publishers bpNichol and David Aylward. 

jw curry states that there were "approximately 1oo copies produced, with a small variant on green paper”. 

The work is dedicated to Cleveland, Ohio poet and publisher d.a.levy, who died of a gunshot to the head the year prior, at the age of 26. Most assume that levy took his own life after several years of police harassment, intense media coverage and court trials after being fined for obscenity. New York writer Mike Golden maintains that he he was murdered by police for his anti-establishment writings. 

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Marianne Wex | Let’s Take Back Our Space

Marianne Wex
Let’s Take Back Our Space
Berlin, Germany: Frauenliteratur Verlag, 1979
366 pp., 24 x 19 cm., softcover
Edition size unknown 

Brilliantly illustrating Sol Lewitt’s axiom that “Art shows come and go but books stay around for years”, Let's Take Back Our Space became a legacy project for the artist who took sick shortly after producing it and left the art world for the remainder of her life. 

Marianne Wex first presented her extended photo essay in a group exhibition in 1977, and soon after was diagnosed with a serious illness, leading her to leave her art practice behind, and travel the world researching alternative medicine.  As best as I can gather, she did not make another work in the forty-one years between this and her death in the autumn of last year. 

In 2009, Let’s Take Back Our Space was exhibited for the first time since its unveiling and has shown at least once every year subsequently. The work is now in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. 

Subtitled Female and Male Body Language as a Result of Patriarchal Structures, the work features 2037 photographs of men and women and asserts that body language is a result of sex-based, patriarchal socialization, affecting all of our other "feminine" and "masculine" role behaviour. 

Anticipating the phrase "manspreading" thirty-five years ago, the volume illustrates how feminine postures are closed and protected, while masculine postures are expansive:

"[Women will sit] legs held close together, feet either straight or turned slightly inward, arms held close to the body. In short, the woman makes herself small and narrow, and takes up little space." Men, on the other hand, sit "legs far apart, feet turned outwards, the arms held at a distance from the body. In short, the man takes up space and generally takes up significantly more space than the woman.”

Let’s Take Back Our Space is considered to be Wex’s lone surviving art work. 

Jenny Holzer

 Jenny Holzer turns 71 today. 

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Primary Information sale

The annual Primary Information 50% off sale is on now and continues until Thursday July 22 at 10 am.