Below are a selection of images from the opening reception of the exhibition The Feverish Library, organized in collaboration with Matthew Higgs at Friedrich Petzel Gallery (September 6 – October 20, 2012).
It was the kind of library he had only read about in books.
– Alan Bennett, The Uncommon Reader
The impious maintain that nonsense is normal in the Library and that the reasonable (and even humble and pure coherence) is an almost miraculous exception. They speak (I know) of the “feverish Library whose chance volumes are constantly in danger of changing into others and affirm, negate and confuse everything like a delirious divinity.” These words, which not only denounce the disorder but exemplify it as well, notoriously prove their authors’ abominable taste and desperate ignorance.
– Jorge Luis Borges, The Library of Babel
In 1966, John Latham checked out Clement Greenberg’s Art and Culture: Critical Essays from the library at the Saint Martin’s School of Art, where he was an instructor. One evening at a party he asked students to chew up the book’s pages after which he turned the pulp into a clear liquid. After repeated demands from the library for the book’s long overdue return, Latham presented the liquid in a vial. The book in its altered state was not accepted.
“The Feverish Library” brings together a number of artworks whose premises are predicated on the book as a conceptual, psychological, and cultural form. In some pieces, the actual physicality of the book is addressed. The works collectively constitute a meditation on the page, book jackets, design, and content. Some works are arguably a fond or surreal portrait of pulp, a disconcerting look at hoarding and a general nostalgia or malaise regarding the impending obsolescence of the printed medium. And like the expansive and confused Borgesian library, the works in the show will be densely layered.
Additionally, the gallery will present a special project “Thirty People Present Their Favorite Book [After Kosuth]” which co-opts Joseph Kosuth’s 1966 show wherein he asked fifteen artists to choose their favorite book and presented the books as an exhibition at Lannis Gallery. In this 2012 iteration, the thirty artists of Friedrich Petzel Gallery have been asked to present their favorite book, which will be on view in the exhibition, and there will be an accompanying brochure documenting the book covers published by Jeremy Sanders and 6 Decades.
Finally, the gallery will have a box sponsored by Little Free Library.org, a non-profit organization dedicated to sharing “good things to read.” The box will be available during gallery hours for visitors to bring in books and to take books in exchange on the honor system. Little Free Library supports reading for children, literacy for adults and libraries around the world.
Matthew Higgs is an artist, curator and writer based in New York. He is currently the Director of the alternative space White Columns.
Richard Artschwager, Tauba Auerbach, John Baldessari, Steven Baldi, Erica Baum, Carol Bove, Matthew Brannon, Gavin Brown, Clegg and Guttman, Guy de Cointet, Anne Collier, Martin Creed, Moyra Davey, Jeremy Deller and Nicholas Abrahams, Mark Dion, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Liam Gillick, Wade Guyton, David Hammons, Matthew Higgs, Candida Höfer, Martin Kippenberger, Sean Landers, John Latham, Robert Longo, Jorge Pardo, Seth Price, Stephen Prina, Richard Prince, Allen Ruppersberg, Cindy Sherman, Josh Smith, John Stezaker, Wolfgang Tillmans, William Tyler, Rachel Whiteread, Steve Wolfe, Heimo Zobernig.
Friedrich Petzel Gallery is located at 537 West 22nd Street New York, NY 10011. Hours are Tuesday – Saturday, 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM.