23.04.11 – 12.06.11
The title of Derek Sullivan's show, Young Americans, refers to two exhibition catalogues published by the New York MoMA in the 1950s, an age that showed a great interest for American abstract painting. A number of artist portraits from these catalogues are reproduced here as posters, and each one seems to carry a certain hope, ambition or temperament.
The posters combine with framed drawings and the fan-shaped architecture of the cabinet spaces to make up separate pages from an imaginary book entitled Young Americans. The installation is built in two meticulously designed layers: the numbered book pages with enlarged artist portraits and blank sheets serve as the basic layout of the book. On top of this foundation rests a second layer with framed poster drawings. These eye-catching drawings, collages and gouaches feature graphic patterns and text references drawn from the visual imagery of geometric abstraction, modern design and conceptual strategies. The two layers overlap, but maintain their own separate visual rhythms. Like phrases in a winding narrative, each poster combined with its accompanying pattern or fragment of text suggestively builds upon the one before it. In its sequence, the multilayered book emphasizes the sensation of reading. It consists of a concentration of free associations, formal and textual relations and an endless loop of narratives.
The conception of the exhibition as a book is extended throughout the space. Blank sheets serve as breathing spaces; short breaks during reading. These stylistic elements are a recurrent feature in Sullivan’s artist’s books where the blank sheets, the literary, cultural and historical references and the additional titles suggest that the book is still under development. Making grateful use of the possibilities of ‘print on demand’, the artist can ensure that literally no two exact copies of a book are in circulation.
As such, the exhibition may serve as yet another exercise for Sullivan in devising a structure for a book and in linking the temporal aspect of experiencing an exhibition with the logic of reading. Consequently, Sullivan considers Young Americans as an artist’s book to walk around in, as a dialogue in which the visitor partakes.