Hard as a Rock
a video installation by Kay Rosen
curated by Lal Bahcecioglu
CP Projects Space
132 W 21st Street, 10th Floor
New York, NY 10011

Opening Reception: Thursday, 29 October 7:30 - 9:30 pm
October 30 - November 12, 2015

Press Release / Hard as A Rock:

CP Projects Space at The School of Visual Arts presents Hard As A Rock, a revisiting of Sisyphus, a 1991 video by Kay Rosen. Curated by Lal Bahcecioglu, the exhibition features a re-interpretation of the work, which addresses the subject of futility as expressed through an etymological understanding of the commonly “mispelled" name “Sisyphus.”

Sisyphus was the ruler of Corinth in Greek mythology. He was punished for his chronic trickery by being forced to roll a huge rock up the side of a steep hill. However, he never manages to do so because the rock always falls back down again. He tries this repeatedly, forever. And therefore he becomes the figure of eternal futility.

Rosen is retelling the Sisyphus story in her own way, by using language as her rock. In her video, the artist misspels Sisyphus in seventy different ways, which is the probable amount of misspellyng combinations of this word. Each failed iteration is another expression of futility. Every attempt is accompanied by a drum roll, creating an expectation of finally getting it right. Yet, the correct spellling of Sisyphus never appears. 

Both Sisyphus and Rosen, repeatedly try to achieve success. However there is a thin line that differentiates both actions: While Sisyphus tenaciously tries the same thing as a hopeless labor, the artist tries a different spellyng with each attempt. Even though she never comes through and attains the correct spelling, she portrays a variety of failed successes. This nuance makes Sisyphus the sufferer and Rosen the playful one, which becomes, perhaps, a reading of life and art.

Rosen’s video is shown in various corners of the exhibition space. Every peek in to another corner ends up with a different frame of the myspelled name. The volume of the drum beats rises gradually, promising of the correct spelling—meaning success. Visitors are compelled to be part of a loop, encountering the effort and “failure”—which I believe we are all familiar with.


Rosen’s language-based paintings, drawings, editions, collages, and installations have been exhibited in museums and institutions nationally and internationally for over three decades, among them The Art Gallery of New South Wales; The Art Institute of Chicago; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver; Kunsthalle Bielefeld, Germany; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein; The Drawing Center, New York; MASS MOCA, North Adams, Massachusetts; the Whitney Biennial 1991 (as part of Group Material “AIDS Timeline”) and in 2000; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (solo survey exhibition 1998-99); Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam. Rosen’s work has also been shown in numerous solo and group gallery exhibitions in the U.S. and Europe, and it resides in collections worldwide. Artforum, Art in America, ArtUS, and The New York Times are a few of the publications that have featured her work. Rosen has been awarded three National Endowment for the Arts fellowships (1987, 1989, 1995), an Anonymous Was a Woman Award (2009), and an SJ Weiler Fund award (2013). A book about her work, Kay Rosen: AKAK, was published by Regency Art Press, New York City, in 2009. Rosen lives in the midwestern part of the U.S. and has taught at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago for twenty years. More can be learned about her at www.kayrosen.com.

*A limited edition booklet accompanies the exhibition.

*for more information about Kay Rosen, please visit her website and Artsy page.