He is a strong believer in art-making as a process not just of representing but of uncovering a world that would otherwise remain hidden. The uncanny likenesses rendered in his various portraits show a love of metamorphic intensity and of mysteries on the verge of being revealed. ─Peter Gizzi
The approximately 80 small-scale collages, drawings, and mixed media works on view by Robert Seydel offer a multitude of ways of experiencing visual art as poetry. Working in notebooks and on found paper materials, according to Gizzi, “so many of his tools are a writer’s: whiteout, pencil and pen, erasers, tape, type, and newsprint, which he uses to capture light and color, the movement between what is lasting and fleeting, conducting acts of salvage rather than consumption.” By treating letters, numbers, and punctuation marks as aesthetic visuals, he blurs the lines between visual and textual art in work that vibrantly details how poetry can be a visible, tangible experience of the artist’s process.
Seydel’s works on view incorporate fictional strategies, hybrid visual forms, collage, drawing, photography, and extensive textual matter often laced with private meanings and references. Many of the pasted-in elements and typography featured are cut out of old books or found materials, and the style of collage mixed with hand-drawn elements adds the impression of pages held over from a kind of mid-century archive. Several works on view feature and follow the vast narrative of Seydel’s alter ego: Ruth Greisman, both eponymous and real aunt and artist of The Book of Saul, 2000-present.
Seydel’s ability to simultaneously work on and rotate between multiple series allows for flexibility within his creative process, and for experimentation with new content. Reflecting the interlocking nature of his practice, a composite installation on view along the main gallery wall will feature a selection of works compiled from the following series: New Droon Works, 2002-2004, a series of drawings in pencil and ink; Siselnamés (Mixed Melodies), 2000, a series of collages and mixed media on paper from Greece and Turkey; Series Homages, 2002-present, a set of collages, oils, and mixed media on paper devoted to Ted Berrigan, Velimir Klebnikov, and numerous other art and literary luminary figures; Flattened Paper Paste-Ups and A Fauna, 2003-present, a series of collages and mixed media on paper representing a variety of anthropomorphic visions of imagined animals; and a number of miscellaneous pieces.
The adjacent gallery walls will feature a significant grouping from Seydel’s longest ongoing project, The Book of Saul, 2000-present, an epic series incorporating collage, writing, and other works, all ostensibly made by the artist’s aunt. The Book chronicles the lives of its two main protagonists, aunt and uncle, Ruth and Saul (or Sol) Greisman, and their relationships with Joseph Cornell and Marcel Duchamp. A fifth character, mostly invisible, is “Robt,” or Robert Cornell, Joseph’s homebound brother, a sometime stand-in for Seydel himself. In real life, Saul was a plumber, and Ruth, among other things, a Sunday painter, who attempted to teach Seydel oil painting on occasion. In The Book, they meet Cornell (and through him, Duchamp), both of whom Ruth proceeds to falls in love with. Selections of Ruth’s artwork on view take the form of mailings to Joseph, such as Untitled [to Joseph C.], 2000-2007, (pictured above right), numerous journal writings, along with various serial and other pieces composed of fragments and encompassing a rotation of styles to form a biography of Ruth’s (and Seydel’s) own making.