ROBERT SEYDEL: THE EYE IN MATTER
Exhibition in the Book Arts Gallery, Neilson Library (3rd floor), Smith College, Northampton, MA
September 2-December 15, 2014
Roundtable discussion & reception: Monday, September 29, 6-8 pm, Neilson Library Browsing Room
Artist and writer Robert Seydel (1960-2011) left behind a multi-layered, highly original body of work marked by an unrelenting sense of play. His extraordinary and eclectic production incorporated collage, drawing, photography, and narrative and lyric writing, often using various personas and fictional constructs to explore the boundaries between the salvaged and the lost, the unknown and the unknowable, the art that is made and the art that is found. In Book of Ruth, which is featured in this exhibition, Seydel’s primary alter ego is Ruth Greisman – banker by day, artist by night, friend of Marcel Duchamp and Joseph Cornell – who lived in Queens and cared for her WWI shell-shocked brother.
“Robert Seydel:The Eye in Matter,” a major retrospective exhibition at Smith College, features a definitive selection from Seydel’s acclaimed “Ruth” series — more than 300 collages, “journal pages,” and drawings — which purportedly were discovered buried in boxes of miscellanea in the Joseph Cornell Study Center at the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art and in the family garage. The exhibition, curated by Peter Gizzi, Richard Kraft, and Lisa Pearson, and sponsored by the Mortimer Rare Book Room at Smith College, will include many previously unpublished and unexhibited works, as well as Seydel’s notebooks, open to reveal the process of making this visionary body of work.
In conjunction with the exhibition, on September 29, at 6 pm in the Neilson Library Browsing Room at Smith College, there will be a roundtable discussion about Seydel’s unusual combination of writing and visual art . A reception in the Book Arts Gallery following the presentation will afford visitors a close look at the exhibition.
“Robert Seydel: The Eye in Matter” coincides with the publication of A Picture is Always a Book: Further Writings from the Book of Ruth, edited by Lisa Pearson of Siglio Press, with an interview by Savina Velkova. The book is co-published with the Mortimer Rare Book Room, and copies will be available during the exhibition. A Picture Is Always a Book is a first person, fictional archive, collecting over seventy of Ruth’s “journal pages,” luminescent writings infused with play and pathos, typed up on paper purloined from old photo albums, adorned with drawings in colored pencils, oil pens, white-out, and ink stamps.
Seydell trained as a photographer (MFA, Rhode Island School of Design, 1990) but also had an academic background in literature (BFA, New York University in Photography and English, 1984). Seydel began his pursuit of a hybrid species of art and literature soon after graduate school. In addition to his work as an artist and writer, Seydel was an editor, curator, and teacher who taught for more than a decade at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA, and curated more than a dozen exhibitions at various venues. All items on exhibition are on loan from the Estate of Robert Seydel.