Locust Projects presents Bryan Zanisnik’s installation Philip Roth Presidential Library. In the spring of 2012, Zanisnik was served with a cease and desist letter by attorneys acting for the American author Philip Roth. The document stated that the artist was violating the copyright of Roth’s book The Great American Novel, by holding the publication during a performance at the Abrons Arts Center in New York City. The incident received extensive press coverage, and has garnered mentions of Zanisnik in scholarly publications and academic journals focused on the celebrated author. After much back and forth between Zanisnik’s copyright attorney and Roth’s lawyers, the matter was dropped.
Zanisnik utilized Roth’s novel in his 2012 performance because he felt an affinity with the author and his writing. Both men are from New Jersey; explore ideas of masculinity, Americana, and family in their work; and have an abject sense of humor. While Zanisnik initially intended to limit his reference to Roth to this performance, the resulting legal action tied the author more deeply into the artist’s practice, and he has since made Roth-inspired photographs, textiles, and comics.
The installation at Locust Projects acts as both an aesthetic exploration of a disordered library and as a real functioning space – a place where people congregate and read Roth’s novels and related works. Visitors first encounter a domestic-type setting, featuring a comfortable sofa, framed photographs and ephemera, and a scrapbook of materials exploring Zanisnik’s history with Roth. A 3D-printed bust of Roth encourages visitors to move into the larger space, which is populated by ten thirteen-foot-high sculptures, that double as bookshelves for hundreds of novels and other publications that reference Roth’s life and work . Some of the spaces for books, which appear to have been violently made through the drywall, are covered with vintage mid-twentieth-century patterned wallpaper.