Bookmarking Book Art – Francisca Prieto (II)

Prieto, London 1827 (i)

London 1827 takes us back in time, unfolding the nineteenth-century city before us. In a fluttering of pages we are cast among the grand stone of new buildings, under bridges, along the paths of Regents Park, up to a long-forgotten skyline – an elegant rising of church spires. — Francisca Prieto, Between Folds

Prieto, London 1827In August 1827,  William Blake’s family walked along these London streets in the cool of the buildings’ shadows to the site of an unmarked grave in Bunhill Fields in the Borough of Islington. If the mind’s eye lets the spectator step into those shadows, the metallic edging of the folds in this work recalls Blake’s invention of relief etching on copper plate to enable the “Illuminated Printing” of his “Illuminated Books”.  Where the eye passes Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Blake’s apprenticeship springs to mind — for 50 guineas to an architectural prints engraver (James Basire, 1730–1802) for the tasks of polishing the plates, sharpening the gravers, preparing the surfaces for the acid, guiding the graver’s bite through the copper and, eventually, creating the sketches for the plates in Richard Gough’s Sepulchral Monuments in Great Britain

Prieto, London 1827 (ii)Gradually becoming aware of Prieto’s painstaking mathematical precision and calculation to expose between the folds just the right text and illustrations from London and its Environs in the Nineteenth Century by Thomas H. Shepherd, published the month before Blake’s death, the flâneur of London 1827 might wonder whether Blake would have cast Prieto’s lot in with those of Newton, Locke and Bacon, his sterile scientific materialists.  But no, Blake praised the unity of art and science:

“What is the Life of Man but Art & Science?” (Jerusalem, plate 77)

“Art & Science cannot exist but in minutely organized Particulars, and not in generalizing Demonstrations of the Rational Power.” (Jerusalem plate 55: line 62).

Prieto’s works consist of these “minutely organized Particulars” and, being so, they bring the viewer to “Life” and assert their place in the tradition of book art.

See also Bookmarking Book Art – Francisca Prieto (I) and www.blankproject.co.uk.

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Bookmarking Book Art – The Banff Centre, Paul D. Fleck Library & Archives

From Alberta, Canada

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now added to BooksOnBooks’ blogs followed.

The Paul D. Fleck Library & Archives at The Banff Centre has over 4,000 artists’ books and multiples. Inspired by Ed Ruscha’s seminalbook “Every Building on the Sunset Strip”, we will display every item in the collection in a case in the library, rotating through 15 items weekly. Here you will find a photo log documenting the items, chosen randomly for display. Click through on any photo for title and creator caption.

For more information and full catalogue records for the items pictured, visit banffcentre.ca/library/.

Kudos to book artist Jaye Fishel for setting up Every Item in the Artists’ Books Collection and to Silvio Lorusso for the interview with Fishel.

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Bookmarking Book Art – Mending Pages

M4qPagG - ImgurR6fTbxTmpG4XVO - ImgurWilliam Dean Minter, Senior Book Conservator in the Digitization and Preservation Department at Pennsylvania State University drew my attention to these images. At first, they reminded me of passages in Annie Tremmel Wilcox’s A Degree of Mastery, in which she describes mending rare books with kozo paper under the hawkeye of the late Bill Anthony. Then, dreamcatchers sprang to mind. DreamcatcherWhat were the images, sounds and thoughts caught in words now missing on these pages, words slipped from the dreamcatching pages? But book artist Esther Kibby, who teaches photography, graphic design and web design at the Art Institute of Dallas in Texas, came up with the most telling association: kintsugiKintsugi

Kintsugi (or kintsukuroi) is a Japanese method for repairing broken ceramics with a special lacquer mixed with gold, silver, or platinum. The philosophy behind the technique is to recognize the history of the object and to visibly incorporate the repair into the new piece instead of disguising it. The mastery of the book restorer is to invisibly repair the book. Our “dreamcatcher” restorer seems to have in mind the kintsugi philosophy and lets the repair draw attention to itself and creates “a new piece”.

In the hands of a book artist, such a technique could generate ironic expressions of biblioclasm: the restored book that is no longer a book? Or echoes of Walter Benjamin’s presumption of and preoccupation with the modern world’s fragmentary nature? Or the pain and sorrow of Al-Mutanabbi Street?

Bettina Pauly, The Sun that Rises, 2013

Bettina Pauly, The Sun that Rises, 2013.  Made for An Inventory of Al-Mutanabbi Street.

 

Or a tongue-in-cheek answer to those horrified by the destruction of “the book”?

When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something’s suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful. —Barbara Bloom

 

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Bookmarking Book Art — Noriko Ambe

I first came across Noriko Ambe’s book art in 2013 through her site and MoMA’s Inside/Out. Two years later and preparing to attend the closing of Yale University Art Gallery’s special exhibition of Allan Chasanoff’s collection of book art, I spotted her Basic Sketch Book. The latter provided me with a way of making sense of what seemed like a slight contradiction of assertions in her artist’s statement and the MoMA interview.

Noriko Ambe, Work of Linear - Actions, 2000 Found sketchbook 27.9 x 21.6 cm (11 x 8 1/2 in.) The Allan Chasanoff, B.A. 1961, Book Art Collection, curated with Doug Beube - See more at: http://artgallery.yale.edu/collections/objects/work-linear-actions#sthash.USWWDCvW.dpuf

Noriko Ambe, Work of Linear – Actions, 2000
Found sketchbook
27.9 x 21.6 cm (11 x 8 1/2 in.)
The Allan Chasanoff, B.A. 1961, Book Art Collection, curated with Doug Beube
Reproduced with the artist’s permission

Noriko Ambe, Work of Linear - Actions, 2000

Noriko Ambe, Work of Linear – Actions, 200

Noriko Ambe, Work of Linear - Actions, 2000

Noriko Ambe, Work of Linear – Actions, 2000

Referring to the series Work of Linear – Actions, Ambe writes, “It looks like annual rings of a tree or topographical map or wave, but it isn’t. It is absolutely the traces of actions of a person, which is me.” So here is book art as abstract self-portraiture.

But in her interview with Hanna Exel and referring to the series キル –Artist Books Project, Ambe comments, “I am not trying to express myself or insert myself into the other artist’s work by cutting their catalogue …”. In that series, Ambe selected 24 artists’ books and catalogues, and, studying each carefully , excavated or rather drew by excision. Aren’t these “absolutely the traces of actions of a person” — Noriko Ambe?

Noriko Ambe, CUT: Egon Schiele, 2009 Artist’s book The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Fund for the Twenty-First Century.  © 2013 Noriko Ambe

Noriko Ambe, CUT: Egon Schiele, 2009
Artist’s book
The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Fund for the Twenty-First Century.
© 2013 Noriko Ambe
Reproduced with the artist’s permission

Here is the list of works in the series:

His heart, his life: Andy Warhol
Collected Beauties: Damien Hirst
Art Victims: Damien Hirst
Prologue: Sugimoto + Foer
Sculpture: Richard Serra
Spiritual America: Richard Prince
Crash!: Takashi Murakami
Kiru- Cut : Egon Schiele
In the Studio: Arberto Giacometti
Current – War Cut: Gerhard Richter
Current – A Private Atlas: Gerhard Richter
In the bathtub?!: Jeff Koons
Diamond Dust Shoes: Andy Warhol
Warning!: Richard Pettibone
Sailing to…: Cy Twombly
Anatomy of Love: John Currin
Listning to Tom Freidman: Tom Freidman
Thoughts on Tom Freidman: Tom Freidman
Beautiful Inside of My Head Forever: Damien Hirst
Dots on Dots and Leyers: Roy Lichtenstein
To Perfect Lovers: Felix Gonzalez-Torres
A Study of Robert Therrein: Robert Therrien
Double sides: Girbert & George
Artists, Believe in Yourself.: Piotr Uklanski

In her series statement, Ambe elaborates:

The process of creation was divided into roughly three stages. First, I earnestly established a deep respect for the artists and verified what they expressed through their art. After assimilating that information I decided on the theme (title) that needed to be expressed. Through a filter, the filter being me, the work was made while cutting as though I was having a dialogue with each single page.

When cutting something from the back I didn’t know what kind of image would appear next. Each time I decided to cut away or to leave behind and the process continued to a point where the book was on the verge of destruction, and then following my theme I re-constructed. Finally, while I clearly remained in the work as a filter, the essence of the artist was emphasized. It became a collaboration for the first time when these two things were balanced.

She calls the results dialogues and collaborations. I see unique works of art. Literally taking tradition as her material, Ambe delivers book art with its own unmistakeable, individual style. Each interpretation through her eyes, hands and scalpel is a unique, new work and a self-portrait in an abstract sense.

There is not the slightest contradiction.

 

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Bookmark – Aldus Manutius, 6 February 1515 – 6 February 2015

Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, Venice: Aldine Press, 1499.

Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. Venice: Aldine Press, 1499.

Late afternoon before the long worn wooden benches in the Bodleian’s Convocation Hall, 500 years after the death of Aldus Manutius, Oren Margolis served his audience well, providing them with a richer appreciation of the “finest printed book of the entire Renaissance”* – the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili – and of its publisher Aldus Manutius.

Drawing our attention to the more sculptural qualities of Venetian Renaissance printed books over the Florentine and to the  evidence of the humanist agenda that drove Manutius, he led us to the page where Poliphilo (lover of all things, but in particular Polia, the ideal woman pursued to the end of the book) stands before a carving that foreshadows the Aldine Press device: a dolphin entwined around the shank of an anchor. The Aldine Press device was inspired by a similar image on an ancient Roman coin given by Pietro Bembo to Aldus, who wrongly associated it with Augustus and his proverb “Make haste slowly” and adopted both for his printing and publishing business.

Erasmus praised Aldus, saying that he was “building a library which knows no walls save those of the world itself”. Five hundred years after Aldus’s death, publishers continue to make haste slowly – at least in the eyes of most of their authors – and this has led many to try their hand at self-publishing over the internet. Now, the walls of that analog “world itself” have fallen. The Digital Public Library of the World beckons. But arriving there, will we – like Poliphilo in concluding his struggle to possess Polia – wake to find that it was all a dream?

For all of 2015, the world can enjoy a multitude of celebrations of the contribution of Aldus Manutius to publishing, printing and the book. The Manutius Network 2015  provides a running list, links for some of which are provided below, including the online exhibition associated with Margolis’s talk.

 

 

 

See the New York Times coverage here

*Alexander Lawson. The Anatomy of a Typeface. Jaffrey, NH: Godine, 1990. 

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Bookmarking Book Art – Helen Douglas

Helen Douglas, In Mexico: in the garden of Edward James, 2014 (reviewed in Der Tagesspeigel)

Helen Douglas, In Mexico: in the garden of Edward James, 2014 (reviewed in Der Tagesspeigel)

Helen Douglas has been kind enough to forward the notice above of her most recent work – In Mexico: in the garden of Edward James Based on her invited residency in Mexico City, this concertina book takes the viewer through Edward James’ jungle garden Las Posaz, its buildings and staircases, James’ surreal imagination and, best of all, Douglas’s own imaginative experience of them. See the interview at BookArtBookBlog that preceded the work’s unveiling at the London Art Book Fair at the Whitechapel Gallery and Berlin Art Book Fair.

When I go to Weproductions, the website of founding partners, Telfer Stokes and Helen Douglas, it is like taking a walk in Yarrow, Scotland, taking the measure of paper samples between forefinger and thumb, browsing in a bookstore, lingering in an art gallery. Two of Helen Douglas’s works in particular elicit this: The Pond at Deuchar (2013) and A Venetian Brocade (2010) .

Helen Douglas, The Pond at Deuchar, 2013 © Helen Douglas. Artist’s acknowledgment to Armadillo Systems (www.armadillosystems.com)

Was it London Book Fair where I first saw this bookwork, appwork, scrollwork … this work of art?  What you see above leads you to the app. Clive Philpott’s postscript to this work, featured on Weproductions and published by the Tate, offers all the background and appreciation of the work you need to read. Read it, then go to The Pond at Deuchar*, lean forward and trail your fingers through its waters. A Venetian Brocade equally makes the act of looking tactile and the act of touching insightful. I have my copy, so I am happy to urge anyone with a pair of eyes and hands to go and buy one of the few remaining.

You will see how these two strong works lead to In Mexico: in the garden of Edward James and wonder, where next?

Helen Douglas and Marina Warner, A Venetian Brocade, Weproductions, 2010

Helen Douglas and Marina Warner, A Venetian Brocade, Weproductions, 2010

See also JMW Turner, “Deuchar Old Bridge, Near Yarrow, Selkirkshire, 1834″ from The Edinburgh Sketchbook, 1831-34.

See also Joseph Brodsky, Watermark (New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1992).

… bipeds go ape about shopping and dressing-up in Venice for reasons not exactly practical; they do so because the city, as it were, challenges them. We all harbor all sorts of misgivings about the flaws in our appearance, anatomy, about the imperfection of our very features. What one sees in this city at every steep, turn, perspective, and dead end worsens one’s complexes and insecurities. That’s why one—a woman especially, but a man also—hits the stores as soon as one arrives here, and with a vengeance. The surrounding beauty is such that one instantly conceives of an incoherent animal desire to match it, to be on par. This has nothing to do with vanity or with the natural surplus of mirrors here, the main one being the very water. It is simply that the city offers bipeds a notion of visual superiority absent in their natural lairs, in their habitual surroundings. That’s why furs fly here, as do suede, silk, linen, wool, and every other kind of fabric.

See also The Secret Life of Edward JamesGeorge Melly’s documentary film from 1975.

*Deuchar is pronounced “dew-ker”, the “k” as in “loch”.
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Bookmarking Book Art – Werner Pfeiffer and Anselm Kiefer

Werner Pfeiffer, Zig Zag, 2010 Laid into drop spine case: One folded sheet (20 x 20 cm.) which unfolds into a paper structure with various panels containing text printed in red and black, including instructions for use of the work. "The structure used in this book is a combination of two accordion folds. Both are first creased, then each segment is cut halfway through at the center and finally the two strips are merged together where the cuts have been made." Sheet laid into case. Limited ed. of 60 copies.

Werner Pfeiffer, Zig Zag, 2010
Laid into drop spine case: One folded sheet (20 x 20 cm.) which unfolds into a paper structure with various panels containing text printed in red and black, including instructions for use of the work. “The structure used in this book is a combination of two accordion folds. Both are first creased, then each segment is cut halfway through at the center and finally the two strips are merged together where the cuts have been made.” Limited edition of 60 copies.

“The book is one of the most powerful weapons ever invented.”  — Werner Pfeiffer, Book-Objects & Artist Books, online exhibition, Cornell University Library’s Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections.

Anselm Kiefer, The Rhine 1982-2013 Collages of woodcuts on canvas with acrylic and shellac in a leporello structure

Anselm Kiefer, The Rhine, 1982-2013
Collages of woodcuts on canvas with acrylic and shellac in a leporello structure

“The book, the idea of a book or the image of a book, is a symbol of learning, of transmitting knowledge … I make my own books to find my way through the old stories.”   — Anselm Kiefer, publication entry for Brünhilde schläft, in Toledo Museum of Art Masterworks (Toledo, 2009).

Like Anselm Kiefer, though eight years older, Werner Pfeiffer grew up in the shadow of Nazi Germany.  The works of both artists are rooted in the book and its peculiar place in that culture. Pfeiffer’s book-objects consist of deconstructed, dismantled library discards that are reassembled with glue and coated in gesso.  “Gagged and tormented” (with nails, screws, rope and various physical distortions), the works are “symbols of pain, of torture, of suppression which are inevitably brought on by the censor’s act”, the real remnants of which Pfeiffer recalls from his earliest childhood.

Pfeiffer’s artist books on the other hand run the gamut of foldouts, scrolls, flexagons, walk-in environments and rely on traditional bookmaking craft: handset type, letterpress printing, sophisticated binding as well as original print techniques such as wood cuts or linoleum blocks and etchings on archival papers. The emotional range of Pfeiffer’s art is also wide — humorous, playful, piquant, simultaneously angry and sorrowful, concerned. The overriding concerns are straightforwardly explained in the text to the online Cornell University exhibition.

The first schoolbooks I can remember, leftovers from the previous regime, were heavily “edited.” They were books with words and sentences blackened out. Chapters were deleted; entire pages were missing. This was information declared unsuitable for a post-war generation, a generation who six months earlier had been practically obliterated by the events now deemed unfit to be read about. Part of what they had lived through, their own history, had been blocked out, hidden behind those black marks.

Measured by the perceived fears an innocently bound codex seems capable of instilling, the book is one of the most powerful weapons ever invented. And yet we find ourselves at a threshold where its power and influence seem to be waning.

… As in the past, we find at the core of our current socio-political realignment the process of communication…. The new cultural footprint is a set of digits and their application, made possible by the microchip and the speed of electricity….

My book-objects have their origin partly in this ambiguous realm, a period of change as radical as it is dramatic. Superimposed over this perceived uncertainty is my personal concern about censorship. By making books which are deliberately mute I try to raise questions. Words are lost; they are no longer important. The books take on new forms; they become provocative statements. No longer instruments for reading they become sculptures, they become Book-Objects.

As with all superior sculpture, Pfeiffer’s works make the hands twitch to touch and manipulate them. In a few exhibitions, that interaction has even been encouraged. There is something inherently haptic about his book art (for example, Zig Zag) and his book-objects (for example, Drawing Blood), which can be enjoyed vicariously in these videos: Youtube 1, Youtube 2 and Youtube 3.

Kiefer’s materials are more varied, more monumental than Pfeiffer’s, and his concerns are decidedly not straightforward. Considering his sprawling studio complex at Barjac, in southeastern France, and its towers and installations, to say that Kiefer’s oeuvre extends beyond book art is an understatement. But for Books on Books, his most moving works — even those in which the book’s material presence is greatly subordinate — remain tethered to book art. The ache to touch Kiefer’s art, however, is different from what you feel with Pfeiffer’s. What little playfulness there may be in some of Kiefer’s earliest pieces is overshadowed by monumental works evoking an urge and dread at the same time.

You feel it walking up the stairs in the Royal Academy, looking up and seeing the sculpture Für Fulcanelli – die Sprache der Vögel, its great wings of beaten lead spread and rising above you.  Between the wings, the body is made of a stack of elephant and double elephant folio books lying flat (or rather gathered folios made of lead like the wings). Interleaved with the closed and open books are rusted metal folding chairs with wooden seats and backs, the kind found in city parks. Thick metal wedges that appear to be wood are inserted at various points to balance out the angular, tilting pile. Separate and lying before this huge bird is a carved wooden snake, elongated and heading right to left as you view the work. The pages of the books curl and fold and roll up as if sodden or aflame. Some are rusted. The bottom-most book has lead binder boards, water stained and looking like marbled paper. Not all of them have binding boards, but all are spineless. You want to touch but know that if you do, your fingers will come away with some alchemical residue of history that will not come off and may burn the skin.

Pfeiffer’s works from a major exhibition in 2011 at Cornell remain on view online. Another major exhibition followed in 2012 at Vassar College.  A new exhibition is scheduled for February 2015 in Toledo, Ohio. More about it in The Blade.

A major retrospective of Kiefer’s art at the Royal Academy of Art concluded in December 2014, coinciding with an hour-long BBC program. An interview with the artist and several podcasts are available on the RA’s site, and the rich and extensive exhibition catalogue provides articles exploring the complex themes of Kiefer’s art.

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