Last week, the Sebastian + Barquet gallery opened Reading Rooms, a group show of of authors and designers curated by Matthew Weinstein on display in New York City now through April 5.
Weinstein has arranged seven reading areas in a large open space, each of which consists of a seat and a lamp, a side table, a rug or an object to further define the arrangement. Each arrangement has been inspired by a novel that will be available for people to read.
The exhibition showcases selected works by Geoffrey Bradfield, Wendell Castle, Joe Colombo, Pedro Friedeberg, Graham Greene, Arturo Gomez Guerra, Johanna Grawunder, Anna Kavan, Aranda & Lasch, Peter Macapia, Carlo Molino, Ico Parisi, Charlotte Perriand, Phillip Lloyd Powell, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Krueck & Sexton, Georges Simenon, Muriel Spark, Andrzej Stasiuk, Lynne Tillman and Mae West.
According to Weinstien, “As the physical object of the novel dissolves into pure information, it’s relationship to artistic issues of physicality and visual imagery becomes more and more tenuous. The look of book covers that we remember from our formative years of reading, the smell of certain books, the size of them and the typeface that we are given—as opposed to the ones we can choose on a digital reading device—are all dying properties. But, the body must rest someplace while the mind reads.
“Where we read, what we recline or sit on while we read, the light that illuminates the space around us while we read and the rug or floor beneath our feet while we read are enduring physical factors that define our experience of reading. If you read Moby Dick on an iPhone over the course of a year of subway commutes, your experience of it will be very different from your experience of it if you read a chapter a night before going to sleep in your own bed.”
For the duration of the exhibition, anybody can come in and read for as long as they like. They will either be attracted by the novel or by the seating area when they make their choice of where to sit. In the open space, readers can watch each other read or viewers can watch people reading. A silent performance will take place every day in Reading Rooms, based on who is there and what they are doing.
This exhibition is about public and private space as people can elect to be reader or viewer. The envelope of space around the reader becomes a kind of sculpture; a thing we know we are not supposed to approach too closely or pass through.
“Reading Rooms also considers the challenge that reading poses in a fast paced culture,” said Weinstien. “It is a challenge to break from one’s day and sit down and read for half an hour. Reading is a way of claiming time as well as space and privacy. It is becoming, more and more, a personal rebellion against the social demand that we pack more and more activities into the non-expansive space of one hour.”
Reading Rooms will be exhibited at Sebastian + Barquet, 601 West 26th Street, Suite 300 in New York City, through April 5.