“Robert Seydel: The Eye in Matter”
New York City, July 19 – September 27, 2015
Opening: Sunday, July 19, 2-4 p.m. with readings of Seydel’s writings by Peter Gizzi and Mónica de la Torre.
Originally at: SMITH COLLEGE NEILSON LIBRARY Northampton, Massachusetts, September 2 – December 15, 2014
The art of Robert Seydel (1960-2011) is a rare hybrid species of the visual and literary that dissolves boundaries between the lyrical and the narrative and the acts of reading and looking. In a body of work marked by an unrelenting sense of play, Seydel collapses the historical past with the notated, emotional present and mingles actual personages with fictional characters. Much of his work is made under the auspices of various personas in place of the singular first person perspective. His is a multiplicitious “I”—the self fractured and expanded into many, the lines between them quivering and permeable.
Beginning in 2000, Seydel created a series of works using the alter ego Ruth Greisman who was inspired by his aunt of the same name. “Robert Seydel: The Eye in Matter” features a definitive selection from this fictional archive. Along with a selection of Ruth’s “journal pages” (now collected in A Picture Is Always a Book: Further Writings from Book of Ruth) and almost one hundred collages (many previously unpublished and unexhibited with some previously appearing in Book of Ruth), this exhibition features Seydel’s notebooks (Knot-books), open to pages that reveal glimpses of the process of making this visionary body of work.
These notebooks are the crucible of his expansive, alchemical imagination and eclectic body of knowledge. An exceedingly solitary man who spent untold hours each day reading and studying, writing and making art, Seydel used the notebooks not simply as a diary or record but as a means of selecting, arranging and composing. Many of Ruth’s journal writings are first drafted there—merging daily life and dreams as Seydel traces the leaps of her acrobatic consciousness from the banal to the hallucinatory, the melancholic to the ecstatic.
In Ruth’s collages, Seydel applied his combinatorial magic to debris from the street, forgotten photographs and faded scraps of paper, transforming earthly detritus into illuminated arrangements whose meanings shape-shift as each collage is “read.” In all of Ruth’s works, Seydel explores the implacability of the artistic impulse, while recording loss, desire and the tenuous but persistent creation of self. “The Eye in Matter” invites the viewer into a world made from the daily, devotional practice of making art, into a world in which the work of art is life itself. As Ruth writes: “I’ll invent who I am, against what is. My time and name: a Queens of the mind.”
Curators: Peter Gizzi, Richard Kraft and Lisa Pearson
VISTING THE QUEENS MUSEUM & RELATED EVENTS
In addition to the opening on Sunday, July 19 (2-4 p.m.) there is a fantastic series of related events curated by Emmy Catedral and Nathaniel Otting, with an exciting line-up of very special guest performances, readings, screenings and happenings. There’s complete information here and on the pdf press release above.
The Queens Museum of Art is located in the New York City Building at the Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens, NY 11368. Open Wed. – Sun., 12 – 6 p.m. Suggested donation: General $8 / Students $4. Subway: 7 to Mets-Willets Point (with a walk through the park—see the museum website for directions). T: (718) 592-9700.
MORE ON ROBERT SEYDEL
Siglio and Ugly Duckling Presse have also co-published Songs of S., a cycle of poems by another of Seydel’s alter egos.
You can read the essay “On the Art of Robert Seydel and the Construction of Ruth” and an interview with Robert Seydel by Savina Velkova on the Siglio Affinities blog. There’s also a conversation at Printed Matter between Peter Gizzi and Richard Kraft, moderated by BOMB senior editor Mónica de la Torre about Seydel and Book of Ruth.
On the Siglio “Affinities” blog, there’s a “virtual vitrine” of works called “The Rabbits Are the Stars,” featuring unpublished excerpts from Seydel’s “Knot-books” along with collages and journal pages from the Ruth archive. In 2011 we published “RS: A Library Portrait” as part of Siglio Ephemera #4 which included photographs by Richard Kraft of Seydel’s library. You can see all the photos along with a reading list excerpted from one of Seydel’s Knot-books in the post “Arranging One’s Books: Robert Seydel.” Also in “Affinities” is the post “Things Come Out of Things” which explores Seydel’s combinatorial magic along with works by other Siglio authors. You can find all the related blog posts here.
The Robert Seydel Reading Room houses several thousand volumes from his extraordinary personal library in the Harold Johnson Library at Hampshire College where Seydel taught for more than a decade. Read about the process of designing it, and see a glimpse of his library as he left it in his house on Gray Street in Amherst.