Artists: Becky Beasley, Guy Ben-Ner, Lorin Davies, Harrell Fletcher, Jeff Gabel, Anna Gray and Ryan Wilson Paulsen, Graham Parker, Christina Pettersson, Leanne Shapton, Eve K. Tremblay, and Matt Wiegle
"How to Read a Book" is an exhibition of contemporary art derived from, influenced by, or playfully exploitative of influential works of fiction, with a particular emphasis on celebrated 'classic' novels.
The exhibition highlights work that reflects on ideas of longevity and adaptability, originality and authorship. It examines the process of translation from one medium to another, and the durability - or otherwise - of the Western literary canon as a source for new visual culture.The show's title is appropriated from that of Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren's famous study of 1940, which argues for an educational system based on a list of "Great Books." While the emphasis predates a postcolonial view and now has connotations of cultural conservatism, many of the cited volumes remain touchstones for radical thinkers of all kinds, artists very much among them. "How to Read a Book" looks at how a selection of such individuals have variously celebrated and contested the authority and autonomy of their chosen inspirations.
While Matt Wiegle's drawings of scenes from Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian constitute an idiosyncratic attempt at illustration and Leanne Shapton's covers for Charlotte Brontë's ouevre offer a subtle reflection on the influence of design on reading, Guy Ben-Ner's home-movie version of Moby Dick, Harrell Fletcher's partial reading of Ulysses, and Jeff Gabel's animated take on Thomas Mann's Gladius Dei experiment with the possibilities of free adaptation. Other artists in the show exploit their sources as support structures for more or less tangential projects, looking at literature from the perspectives of reader and writer, interpreter and analyst. Anna Gray and Ryan Wilson Paulsen dissect To the Lighthouse according to its author's mentions of different colors, while Graham Parker reveals the mining of Persuasion and David Copperfield by e-mail spammers, and Eve K. Tremblay reflects on the process and meaning of learning a foundational text by heart. Becky Beasley and Christina Pettersson approach writers' real and invented environments by way of allusive objects and images, while Lorin Davies aligns Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness with the London A-Z guide, suggesting that territories, and the books that shadow them, are both in constant flux.
About the artist
Michael Wilson (b. 1970 in London, England) lives and works in Brooklyn. Wilson received an MFA from the University of Ulster at Belfast in 1996, and an MA(RCA) from the Royal College of Art, London, in 1999. His writing has appeared in Art Monthly, Artforum, Modern Painters, Time Out New York, and elsewhere, and he has contributed to exhibition catalogues published by Art in General, the Asia Society, Matthew Marks Gallery, and P. S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, among others. His most recent curatorial project, a collaboration with Frantiska and Tim Gilman-Sevcik, was "Slow Glass" at Lisa Cooley, New York (2008).
This exhibition is made possible with the support from: Andy Warhol Foundation; Galt & Skye Mikesell; Hannibal Cox Jr. Foundation; Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs, the Cultural Affairs Council, the Mayor, and the Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners. Special thanks to: Miguel Abreu Gallery, New York; Spencer Brownstone Gallery, New York; Fredericks & Freiser Gallery, New York; Laura Bartlett Galley, London; Postmasters, New York, and Private Collection, New York.