Paul Schmelzer: Signifier, Signed
Law Warschaw Gallery presents Paul Schmelzer's unique collection of rare signatures by artists, musicians, filmmakers, and politicians - all signing his name "Paul Schmelzer"
- Mar 23rd - Mar 29th, 2017
- Thu Mar 23rd, 2017 7PM - 9PM CST
Fine Arts Commons 105, 130 S Macalester St
St Paul ( map )
This strange collection was inspired by Schmelzer’s experience with a young family friend: upon meeting a revered musician the boy asked for his autograph. But when the musician handed over his signature over, the 8-year-old boy responded in frustration:
“Not your name. Mine!”
After regaining his composure, the musician scribbled out his own name and rewrote the boy’s. Years later, inspired by the memory of this experience, Schmelzer began asking celebrities—through the mail and in person at concerts, readings, and art openings—to sign his name. A name that, in his own words, is “a Germanic, doesn't-roll-off-the-tongue, un-famous-sounding thing.” The project serves as both a critique of celebrity and a celebration of those who have shaped his beliefs, either positively or negatively.
Signifier, Signed includes signatures from more than 75 celebrities, including high-profile artists and architects (Matthew Barney, Frank Gehry, Maya Lin, Laurie Anderson), musicians (Jeff Tweedy, Dave Brubeck, Henry Rollins), filmmakers (Peter Bogdanovich, Wim Wenders, Errol Morris), a few infamous politicos (Pat Buchanan, Jesse Ventura), some who have passed on (Sen. Paul Wellstone, Merce Cunningham, Spalding Gray, Julian Bond, Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson), and one unmistakable cartoon voice (the man behind Homer Simpson, Dan Castellaneta). The project also includes misinterpretations from the assignment, including the 40 or so who didn’t understand it and signed their own names (like Robert Redford and the late great James Brown), or returned requests for “fan mail” with preprinted 8 x 10s glossies.
Collectively, writes Schmelzer, the project comprises “a weird kind of self-portrait, one in which ego and self-deprecation unite and signifier and signed are muddled.”
The collection has long been documented through a project website and will be publicly shown for the first time at the Law Warschaw Gallery, introduced by a short essay by critic and Macalester College alumni Ben Davis.
Read more about the collection
This exhibition is showing simultaneously with Don Celender: Destiny of a Name and other Works in the 2nd Floor Lounge, Janet Wallace Art Center