Main Gallery

Bryan Zanisnik:
Philip Roth Presidential Library

Locust Projects is proud to present Bryan Zanisnik’s installation Philip Roth Presidential Library. In the spring of 2012 Zanisnik was served with a cease and desist letter by attorneys acting for the American author Philip Roth. The document stated that the artist was violating the copyright of Roth’s book The Great American Novel, by holding the publication during a performance at the Abrons Arts Center in New York City. The incident received extensive press coverage, and has garnered mentions of Zanisnik in scholarly publications and academic journals focused on the celebrated author. After much back and forth between Zanisnik’s copyright attorney and Roth’s lawyers, the matter was dropped. 

Zanisnik utilized Roth’s novel in his 2012 performance because he felt an affinity with the author and his writing. Both men are from New Jersey; explore ideas of masculinity, Americana, and family in their work; and have an abject sense of humor. While Zanisnik initially intended to limit his reference to Roth to this performance, the resulting legal action tied the author more deeply into the artist’s practice, and he has since made Roth-inspired photographs, textiles, and comics. 

The installation at Locust Projects acts as both an aesthetic exploration of a disordered library and as a real functioning space – a place where people congregate and read Roth’s novels and related works. Visitors first encounter a domestic-type setting, featuring a comfortable sofa, framed photographs and ephemera, and a scrapbook of materials exploring Zanisnik’s history with Roth. A 3D-printed bust of Roth encourages visitors to move into the larger space, which is populated by ten thirteen-foot-high sculptures, that double as bookshelves for hundreds of novels and other publications that reference Roth’s life and work. Some of the spaces for books, which appear to have been violently made through the drywall, are covered with vintage mid-twentieth-century patterned wallpaper. 

Philip Roth Presidential Library acts as both an artwork and a reference library, extending Zanisnik’s existing site-specific practice. The installation presents a critique of success, celebrity, and ego, and celebrates the life and writing of a literary genius.


Born in New Jersey, Bryan Zanisnik lives and works in Queens, New York. He has exhibited extensively, both nationally and internationally, including at MoMA PS1, Long Island City; Sculpture Center, Long Island City; Brooklyn Museum, New York; LA>< ART, Los Angeles; Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia; and the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago. Zanisnik studied at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and received his MFA from Hunter College in 2009. He and his work have been featured on ART21, and Philip Roth Presidential Library at Locust Projects will form part of an upcoming episode of the program.

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