Derek Sullivan

Albatross Omnibus


The Power Plant’s 2011 commission Albatross Omnibus by Toronto-based artist Derek Sullivan involves new artist books, and a drawing and installation project.

Curated by Gregory Burke, Independent Curator

The Power Plant’s 2011 commission Albatross Omnibus by Toronto-based artist Derek Sullivan involves new artist books, and a drawing and installation project. The commission’s core is a series of 52 limited edition books produced through print-on-demand technology. One full set of books is displayed in a grid-like formation hanging from wires at a height that visitors must use a stepladder to reach. Fourteen copies of each book will be available for purchase in the gallery shop, with each title exclusively available for a single day of the 52 days of the exhibition. Each of the 52 books has its own title, while the full set shares the name Albatross Omnibus.

On entering the exhibition, visitors encounter a large accordion-shaped wall that snakes into a second gallery containing the grid of books. Each zigzag of this wall reads like the left and right pages of an oversized open book. On one side of the wall are eleven new works from the Poster Drawings series, begun in 2006. Each of the poster-scaled works on paper in this series has its own title and is a discrete work, yet, as with the exhibition as a whole, Sullivan has brought a group together as part of an installation (which can lead to the titles of discrete works being changed and extended). A nine-part work on paper titled Illustrations from The Albatross (2010) is also displayed on the wall; the work consists of twelve units, although only nine are ever shown at one time.

Mutability, a characteristic of Sullivan’s practice, is deepened in this exhibition, with different forms and ideas folding into one another in a way that tests the boundaries of the finite. The project draws on the history of artists’ book production to examine its relationship to the larger art economy, while also exploring an interplay between book, furniture and garden design; concrete poetry; minimalism and conceptual art; authorship and appropriation; and the idea of reading as a stand in for interpretation. Ultimately the physical form of the book both supports and is the artwork.

The exhibition extends into a catalogue that is comprised of two sections housed in a case. The first reflects the form of the accordion wall and documents the exhibition and book covers, while the second features texts by curator Gregory Burke, artist AA Bronson and writer Kathleen Ritter. Also, a full set of the 52 books is available in a limited edition of ten, collected in a hinged, cloth-bound case that opens architecturally.

Derek Sullivan (born in Richmond Hill, ON, 1976) received his BFA from York University and his MFA from the University of Guelph. He has participated in numerous group exhibitions in Canada, the United States and Europe, including Dedicated to you, but you weren’t listening (2005) and We Can Do This Now (2006) at The Power Plant. Recent solo exhibitions have been held at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery, Lethbridge (2008), Galerie Tatjana Pieters/OneTwenty, Ghent (2008), University of Waterloo Art Gallery (2010), and KIOSK, Ghent (2011). He is represented by Jessica Bradley Art + Projects, Toronto.

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