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Bryan Zanisnik & Eric Winkler's Animated Conversation

June 3, 2016

What if your life was a cartoon? Bryan Zanisnik and Eric Winkler meet at a Brooklyn cafe where Zanisnik shares outlandish stories of his life as an artist that Winkler turns into comics. “After years of friendship, I know that he’s going to tell me a crazy story,” says Winkler, “and I’m going to have to say: So which part was really true?

The two friends catch up on Zanisnik’s latest exhibition, the Philip Roth Presidential Library (2016) at Locust Projects in Miami, created from hundreds of the author’s books. The installation echoes a previous work, Every Inch a Man (2012) at Abrons Art Center on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, in which Zanisnik read Roth’s The Great American Novel (1973) during a performance. Winkler’s comics, animated for this film, recount Roth threatening to sue Zanisnik over the homage. “I think Bryan’s always wanted to be able to draw something. He can’t do it though,” says Winkler, “His sculptures are like drawings. He tries things and erases things.”

The film follows Zanisnik as he builds sets for photographic tableaus, first at Smack Mellon in DUMBO and later at the Queens Museum in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Venturing out of his studio, Zanisnik takes pictures of his assemblages in front of monuments from the 1964 New York World’s Fair, suggesting how resources for artists in the city are becoming further and further out of reach. The film ends with Winkler and Zanisnik discussing the recent death of both of their mothers to cancer. Zanisnik, who collaborated with his parents in close to thirty performances, ultimately reunites with his mother in Winkler’s animated comic.

More information and credits


Art21 New York Close Up Created & Produced by: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Director & Co-Producer: RAVA Films. Cinematography & Editing: Rafael Salazar & Ava Wiland. Additional Camera: Carla Tramullas. Artwork & Comics: Eric Winkler & Bryan Zanisnik. Animation: Ben Bigelow. Design & Graphics: Open & Uros Perisic. Music: Latché Swing, Johnny Ripper& Texas Gypsies. Thanks: Flavia Barragan, Francisca Bolzmann, Lauren Dapena Fraiz, Lighthouse Restaurant, Locust Projects, Margot Machado, Smack Mellon, Queens Museum & Michael Sugarman. An Art21 Workshop Production. © Art21, Inc. 2016. All rights reserved.

Art21 New York Close Up is supported, in part, by The Lambent Foundation; the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; and by individual contributors.

Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

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Bryan Zanisnik

Bryan Zanisnik was born in 1979 in Union, New Jersey and currently lives and works between New York and Stockholm, Sweden. Dealing with both autobiographical and social subject matter, Zanisnik creates videos, performances, installations, and photographs, often with elements of the absurd and the abject as he investigates the dynamic between performer and audience. His projects have included staging a boxing match with his childhood bully, exploring and documenting New Jersey’s Meadowlands, and creating The Philip Roth Presidential Library from hundreds of second-hand copies of books by and about the author.

Eric Winkler

Eric Winkler was born in 1981 in Livingston, New Jersey, and lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. An illustrator and comic artist, Winkler often renders in drawings his friend and collaborator Bryan Zanisnik’s outlandish stories of the art world. Self-deprecating and playful, Winkler’s comics are hand-drawn in black ink and invite viewers to consider the sometimes bizarre nature of the real world.

Comics & Animation

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“His sculptures are like drawings. He tries things and erases things.”

Eric Winkler on Bryan Zanisnik’s work

"New York Close Up"