Nina Katchadourian: New Sortings
BYRDCLIFFE Kleinert/James Center for the Arts, 36 Tinker Street, Woodstock, NY 12498
Exhibition Dates: June 13 – July 19, 2015
Artist’s Talk: June 13, 3:00 pm
Opening Reception: June 13, 4:00 – 6:00 pm
Gallery Hours: Wednesday through Sunday, 12:00 – 6:00 pm; Tuesday by appointment
Internationally acclaimed artist Nina Katchadourian often works with a confined, pre-existing set of criteria or visual material, motivated by what she calls “curiosity about the productive tension between freedom and constraint.” Opening on June 13 at the Kleinert/James Center for the Arts, Nina Katchadourian: New Sortings will consist of three series from Katchadourian’s ongoing Sorted Books project. Working in libraries both public and private, she stacks groups of books such that the titles on the spines, line by line, form concise narratives, verbal riffs, and visual ruminations. Sometimes the arranged book titles amount to exclamations; sometimes they pose questions or present quandaries that resolve by the bottom of the book stack. Katchadourian has been creating Sorted Books since 1993, with sites including the libraries of the Akron Art Museum, the Delaware Art Museum, the Strindberg Museum in Sweden, and the private home of art collector and philanthropist Linda Pace.
When working with private book collections, Katchadourian notes that she “gets to know a person through his or her library.” Through the series to be shown at Byrdcliffe’s Kleinert/James, Katchadourian became acquainted with two prolific authors, men whose libraries are as distinct from one another as the things each wrote. Kansas Cut-Up was created in Lawrence, Kansas, in the library of Beat Generation author William S. Burroughs (1914-1997), whose provocative content, experimental literary style, and drug addiction are out of sync with his buttoned-up, academic appearance in photographs. Katchadourian will create a second series on-site in Woodstock, New York, using the library of Alf Evers (1905-2004), owned by the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild. Evers wrote over 50 children’s books but is regionally renowned as a writer of local history, including Woodstock: History of An American Town. Burroughs relished paperback medical thrillers and books on cats, guns, and torture techniques; Evers’ over 1,000 volumes are predominantly social and political history, geography, and art, with fewer than 20 works of fiction. If William S. Burroughs’ luxuriating raunchiness has its obverse in the wholesome Alf Evers, witnesses to Kansas Cut-Up and the as-yet-untitled Woodstock/Evers project will find that the authors do not, by any stretch, constitute the only voices emerging from Katchadourian’s sortings. Coercing the arbitrary into fluent conversations or pithy statements, Katchadourian’s book clusters reveal a potent hyper-literacy that is at once linguistic and graphic. If the variety of concepts and media with which she works could be given one descriptor, this graphic literacy might amount to Nina Katchadourian’s signature.
Inviting Katchadourian to produce new work in Byrdcliffe’s Alf Evers Library demonstrates one of the ways in which the organization has succeeded in aligning its high level of contemporary arts programming with its historical identity as a site of collaborative intellectual and visual productivity. As part of this ongoing initiative, Byrdcliffe’s Alf Evers Library will be made available to the public for the first time this summer, in a specially designated browsing room to be launched concurrently with Katchadourian’s show. A separate announcement will be sent out about that event, which will coincide with the New York State-wide Path Through History weekend, June 20 – June 21.
In addition to the Burroughs’ and Evers’ sortings, both being exhibited for the first time at the Kleinert/James, Nina Katchadourian: New Sortings will include an interactive series titled Woodstacks, in which area organizations and businesses including the Center for Photography at Woodstock and The Golden Notebook, as well as local artists and writers, will create individual book stacks from their own collections. These will be constructed using the artist’s Sorted Book process during the course of the exhibition; each individual or group will respond to stacks created before them.
Nina Katchadourian will give visitors a tour of the exhibition at 3:00 pm on June 13 at the Kleinert/James. The opening reception follows from 4:00 to 6:00 pm. Nina Katchadourian: New Sortings will be on view through July 19. Curated by Derin Tanyol.
We thank the following sponsors for their support: George Baird III and Erica Obey; Susan Spencer Crowe; The Five Partners Foundation; and Carole and Robert Kunstadt.