Allen Ruppersberg_Greene Naftali, New York

07 September, 2017

Allen Ruppersberg: The Novel That Writes Itself

September 7th – October 21st, 2017

On view at Greene Naftali are three distinct bodies of work: The Novel That Writes Itself (1978-2014), Three San Francisco Poets (2017), and LIFE(2017).

Installed across the gallery’s longest wall is The Novel That Writes Itself (1978-2014), a large-scale installation that coalesces a lifetime project. With this work, the artist collects the entire body of posters he produced over the course of a four-decades-long collaboration with Colby Poster Printing Company. The project, when originally conceived in 1978, took the form of a literal novel, its plot centering on the life of Ruppersberg as a young artist. Ruppersberg invited friends and supporters to buy a role in the story—the size of their contribution would mirror their narrative weight. A “leading character” was $300, “major character” $150, and “minor character” just $50. Ruppersberg’s Colby posters, distinct in their use of bright gradients and bold block lettering, were initially presented to those who had supported the book.

Over time, Ruppersberg’s project transformed from a strictly literary one to the installation presented here: an assembly of posters that constitutes a narrative of the artist’s life. Ruppersberg’s tentative display system, in which the laminated posters are simply hung from hooks, suggests a narrative that is permutable rather than fixed, ongoing rather than complete. The Colby posters themselves range from collected advertisements—for rock concerts, carnivals, and protests—to the artist’s own opaque appeals in trademark lettering. “Why do we fail?”, one poster reads. Also incorporated into The Novel That Writes Itself (1978-2014) are a series of posters phonetically transcribing an excerpt from Allen Ginsberg’s poem “Howl.”

(Extract from the press release)

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