Featured in
Issue 11


Artist Tobias Madison presents his selection of favourite publications

BY Tobias Madison in Critic's Guides | 15 AUG 13

Robert Overby, 336 to 1. August 1973 – July 1969, (Robert Overby, 1974; JRP Ringier, 2013), (photographs: Tobias Madison)

In August 1973 – two years after opening his gallery at 420 West Broadway, New York – John Weber received a letter from the artists he represented (which included Mario Merz and Daniel Buren) who were unhappy that another of his artists, Robert Overby, also worked as a graphic designer. Soon afterwards, Weber dropped him from his programme. Overby responded with this artist’s book, which listed his entire artistic oeuvre up to that point – 336 works – in reverse order. The book’s design is incredibly simple and rigorous: all of the images, their sizes apparently chosen at random, are reproduced in the bottom right-hand corner of the page. In the early 1970s, Overby worked mainly with latex casts taken from fragments of domestic environments, and with pieces of household fabrics that he crumpled and covered with resin. The book translates these vague visual worlds – which seem to run parallel to reality – into a chopped, two-dimensional sequence that’s somewhere between Stéphane Mallarmé and a mail-order catalogue for household utensils. It urges artists to view their practice in terms of its broader distribution, and to recognize that in the future, their works will be understood above all through pictures.

Internationale Situationiste 1–12, (anonymous, 2011)

As stated in the original magazine: ‘Tous les textes publiés dans Internationale Situationniste peuvent être librement reproduits, traduits ou adaptés, même sans indication d’origine.’ For this edition, the twelve SI magazines have been given a completely new translation and layout by a group of anonymous anarchists operating between Basel and Tarnac in southern France. Above all, their free translation into German shows that language must be understood as in a constant process of change if it is to retain any kind of meaning, and that resistance consists of immediately refusing all conventions, in this case linguistic ones. The reprint is available through the Fermento anarchist library in Zurich.

William N. Copley, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Art Dealer, in:
Reflection on a Past Life (Institute for the Arts, Rice University, Houston, 1979) & The Sotheby’s Catalogue for the Sale of William N. Copley’s Collection in 1972

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Art Dealer outlines the brief history of The Copley Galleries run by William N. Copley with his brother-in-law, John Ployardt, in late 1940s Hollywood. The gallery staged exhibitions by surrealists who had emigrated to the United States (Max Ernst, René Magritte, Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, etc.), as well as Joseph Cornell’s first show. Full of anecdotes – for example the hours Copley spent with Duchamp observing New York’s first escalator – the memoir focuses on the gallery’s financial failure. Its private views were attended mainly for the free drinks and, in the end, the only thing that was sold was the gallery’s resident parrot. I read the story as a German translation published on the occasion of Copley’s exhibition at Kunsthalle Bern in 1980. The original text seemed to have vanished, and my friend Carissa Rodriguez and I were planning to undertake a translation back into English when the original – a booklet published by Gachnang & Springer – turned up in the estate of Johannes Gachnang. For me, the 1972 original catalogue from Sotheby’s sale of Copley’s collection acts as an accompanying illustrated monograph.

10 Z H2SO4, (Georgi Leonidze Georgian State Museum of Literature, 2005)

A reprint of the dadaist magazine 10 Z H2SO4, published by Georgi Leonidze Georgian State Museum of Literature. I love the visual poetry, even though I don’t understand the meaning of the letters.

Tobias Madison is an artist who lives in Zurich, where he co-runs the cinema AP News. In Basel, Madison co-runs the art space New Jerseyy. His contribution to the 2013 Carnegie International will be on view at the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, USA from 4 October. His first monograph will be published by JRP Ringier in November.