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).