me altar's egoes

William Anastasi installs 2000 handwritten sheets documenting buried allusions in the work of James Joyce, Alfred Jarry, and Marcel Duchamp


Fields of Knowledge
  • Aesthetics / Media
  • Artistic legacies
  • Curatorial practice
  • Philosophy / Theory

Organizing Institutions


Contributing Institutions

Rosenbach Museum and Library, Royal Hibernian Academy Dublin


Osvaldo Romberg

Opens to public



4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104


75% Formal - 25% Informal

Slought is pleased to announce "me altar's egoes," an exhibition by William Anastasi, on display from January 31-March 31, 2004. The project engages the art of interpretation and the interpretation of art through recourse to James Joyce, Alfred Jarry, and Marcel Duchamp. The exhibition consists of two works spanning more than 2000 handwritten sheets of paper - "me innerman monophone" and "Du Jarry" - installed with the artist on the walls of Slought.

This exhibition has been curated by Osvaldo Romberg; it will subsequently travel to Dublin (June 10 - August 28, 2004) as part of the Royal Hibernian Academy exhibition "Joyce in Art: Visual Art Inspired by James Joyce," curated by Patrick T. Murphy and Dr. Christa-Maria Lerm Hayes.

In conjunction with the exhibition opening on January 31, 2004, Anastasi will deliver a lecture entitled "On Coprophilia and the Avant-garde." Please note that the word coprophilia, as employed in Anastasi's talk, signifies an abnormal, often obsessive interest in excrement, especially the use of feces for sexual excitement. An intimate recording of Anastasi rehearsing on May 7, 1994 for a Sorbonne lecture on related topics has also been made available.

Slought and the Rosenbach Museum & Library are also pleased to present a public conversation with conceptual artist William Anastasi and Joyce scholar Jean-Michel Rabaté, Senior Curator at Slought and Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania on Saturday February 28th, 2004, from 2-4pm at the Rosenbach Museum. The Rosenbach Museum & Library of Philadelphia is the holder of the fair copy manuscript of James Joyce's novel Ulysses.

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Considered to be among the first "classical" conceptual artists, William Anastasi is known for rediscovering the radical through painting, sculpture, collage, photography and drawing. Anastasi has, since the early 1960s, grounded his work in the ideology of chance. Anastasi's "unsighted" works, begun in 1963, attempted to separate artistic creation from conscious thought. In his Subway Drawings, begun in 1968, Anastasi closed his eyes, allowing the vibrations of a subway train to move his hands, recording the train's motion in a collection of completely random lines on paper. In a 1990 interview about Anastasi's modus operandi vis a vis Surrealism's Automatism, John Cage made a clear distinction: "It's not psychological; it's physical." Similarly, critic Pamela Lee has argued that "it is an art object that expresses the physicality of its making."

Anastasi's work is in the permanent collections of NY institutions including The Museum of Modern Art, The Guggenheim Museum, The Whitney Museum, The Metropolitan Museum, The Brooklyn Museum, and The Jewish Museum, as well as The Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, The National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., The Art Institute of Chicago, The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, Staatsgalerie fur Kunst in Denmark, and The Kunstmuseum Dusseldorf in Germany, to name but a few. (Born 1933, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Lives in New York)

"An image comes to mind of a white, ideal space that, more than any single picture, may be the archetypal image of 20th-century art... Anastasi photographed the empty gallery at Dwan, noticed the parameters of the Wall, top and bottom, right and left, the placement of each electrical outlet, the ocean of space in the middle. He then silkscreened all this data on a canvas slightly smaller than the wall and put it on the wall. Covering the wall with an image of that wall delivers a work of art right into the zone where surface, mural and wall have engaged in dialogues central to modernism."

-- Brian O'Doherty, "Inside the White Cube," Artforum, 1976 republished in Inside the White Cube, Lapis Press, 1986.

"William Anastasi gave four exhibitions at the Dwan Gallery in New York between 1966 and 1970. The era in which these shows occurred - the beginning and height of the classical conceptual period - might be described, without exaggeration, as the most critical or abnormal years in the entire long and wide history of art. Anastasi's work in these shows was a groundbreaking demonstration of the meaning and power of conceptual art and, indirectly, all art that has been made in the late- and post-conceptual traditions."

-- Thomas McEvilley, Introduction to Scott Hanson retrospective catalogue, New York, 1989.

Related publications

Conceptual artist William Anastasi engages literary and artistic predecessors including Jarry, Joyce, Duchamp, and Cage, alongside scholarly commentary by Thomas McEvilley and others.


Conceptual artist William Anastasi recounts the life and work of artist John Cage, his friend and collaborator, and documents the visual and textual works that informed their ongoing dialogue.

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