Songs of S.

with Maybe S.

Robert Seydel

Edited by Peter Gizzi and Richard Kraft

REVIEWS

Artcritical
Bookforum
Entropy
Vice

ABOUT THE EXHIBITION

“Robert Seydel: The Eye in Matter”

Exhibition-related events at the Queens Museum

MORE ON ROBERT SEYDEL

Tupelo Quartery: Interview with Editor
On the Art of Robert Seydel and the Construction of “Ruth”
Arranging One’s Books, No. 2: Robert Seydel
Error is Arrow: Mónica de la Torre, Peter Gizzi and Richard Kraft at Printed Matter

 

I’m wearing a trellis

over my head. The walk

is wet & shiny. Somewhere

there are sea lions grunting

on an island. Somewhere

there’s Mabel, contrary

but beautiful.

In the wind is the sea.

In the sea somewhere is

California, sometime or

another. It’s floating

west to east,

a hummingbird under

my shoe.

—from Songs of S.

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  • Seydel-Songs-1

S., one of several personas invented by artist and writer Robert Seydel, was a recluse who kept a great library which he suddenly and mysteriously abandoned along with a manuscript of poems and slim stack of drawings. These poems—hypnotic, distilled, obsessive and playful—are written by Seydel as S., whom he devises as a naïf, suffering bouts of madness and apophenia.

Seydel described S. this way: “S. occupied an apartment in a house in Amherst, Massachusetts, on a gray street around the corner from Emily Dickinson’s manse on Main Street. Not that much is known about him as a person… But he wrote prolifically… and kept a journal, and made collages and drew as well, for example the small colored pencil drawings, of heads for the most part, that look like hillocks nestled among the valleys of what might be Amherst’s nearby Holyoke Range… These pictures betray, as do his songs, a certain lack of proficiency, while simultaneously developing a stance of innocence and reverie far from the precincts of the technical… There are hundreds of these little songs, as he sometimes titled them (more often he supplied no title at all, nor is it possible to discern any order for them, chronological or otherwise).”

Siglio and Ugly Duckling Presse have collaborated to publish the complete cycle of poems along with Maybe S. a full color 32-page booklet, that includes drawings by S. as well as hand-written excerpts from Seydel’s notebooks (illustrated above) that illuminate the creation and revisions of this persona and his singular universe.

 

About Robert Seydel

 

A prolific artist and writer, Robert Seydel (1960-2011), left behind a multi-layered, highly original body of work marked by both an unrelenting sense of play and an extraordinary and eclectic body of knowledge. Seydel’s ongoing and interrelated series incorporated collage, drawing, photography, narrative and lyric writing, often using various personas and fictional constructs. Beginning in 2000, Seydel created a vast series of works using the alter ego Ruth Greisman, who was inspired by his aunt of the same name, including the “journal pages” collected in A Picture Is Always a Book (Siglio, 2014) and the works Seydel himself selected for Book of Ruth (Siglio, 2011). Other Seydel alter egos and invented personas include S., author of the Songs of S. (Siglio and Ugly Duckling Presse, 2014), Saul Greisman (“scholar of sewage”), Eckstein-Sousa (“sometimes lecturer and a kind of [failed] poet with Proustian leanings”), and R. Welch (a professor developing a theory of “the biochemical construction of Charismatic figures”), among others.

In addition to the 2014-2015 exhibition “The Eye in Matter” (opening at the Queens Art Museum in July 2015 and the Book Arts Gallery Columbia College Chicago in 2016, having debuted at Smith College Neilson Library in 2014), Seydel had a single solo show, curated by Peter Gizzi, at CUE Art Foundation in 2007, and his work was also exhibited and “Five Contemporary Visual Poets” at the Wright Exhibition Space in Seattle curated by Joshua Beckman. A beloved professor at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts for more than a decade, he also served as curator at the Photographic Resource Center at Boston University for a number of years where he organized ambitious exhibitions and programs. Seydel also edited Several Gravities (Siglio, 2009), a volume of collages and poems by National Book Award-winning poet Keith Waldrop.