Bookmarking Book Art — Large-Scale Book Art Installations

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Enclosed Content Chatting Away In The Colour Invisibility, Anouk Kruithof, 2009

Anouk Kruithof’s massive wall of colored books echoes two leitmotivs in book art — the installation and the presumed disappearance of the book in the onslaught of digital media. Reminiscent of pixels on the computer screen, the work is entitled Enclosed Content Chatting Away In The Colour Invisibility and consists of over 3,500 books rescued from the recycling dump and whose arrangement varies with each installation.  Kruitho has stated that she seeks to “invent new things out of fragments of the past.’

aliciamartinbiographies2

Biografias, Alicia Martín,
2005, site specific installation, Casa de America, Madrid

Alicia Martín’s installation, called Biographias, has appeared in Madrid, The Hague, Cordoba, Linz and Valencia.   The torrent of defenestrated books is made of over 5,000 titles fixed to a wire frame.  

Alicia Martin “absorbed” by her work

Matej Kren is another book installation artist, whose thoughtful, towering installations have been featured in Prague and numerous other cities in this hemisphere.

bookcell-lead01

Book Cell, Matej Kren, 2006, Centro de Arte Moderna – Foundation Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon, Portugal

Although Brian Goggin does not use actual books as his material, his works in bronze, polycarbonate, steel and LED prompt reflections on books, language, the transmission of ideas, permanence and impermanence.

Speechless, Brian Goggin, 2008-2009
Bronze, site-specific installation
Lafayette Library, Lafayette, California

For other large-scale book art installations and why they might be enjoyable, take a look here.

 

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Bookmarking Book Art – Vienna Romanée

From 4 June to 29 October, Vienna Romanée’s “Data Sewing Project” will be on display (and growing) in the Coda Paper Art 2017 exhibition at the Coda Museum in Apeldoorn. These snippets of data from newspapers are sewn together with human hair.

Also on display will be Fingerprint 1.1, a painstakingly created sculpture of a fingerprint built up in layers of shreds of newspaper that speaks of the data embedded in our fingerprints, the permanent and the ephemeral, the material and the human spirit.  More of her work can be seen here.

Source: Datanaaiproject. Photos by Gerry Fokkinga.

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Bookmark – Aldus@SFU.com

The Aldus@SFU site (Simon Fraser University) provides access to 21 of the 106 volumes in the Wosk-McDonald collection. In addition, there are background essays from rare book authority Rebecca Romney, scholar John Willinsky and novelist Robin Sloan.

Taken together with the online project at the University of Glasgow Library, the John Rylands Library exhibition of Aldines and the Bodleian exhibition, Aldus@SFU offers access to the gems of Renaissance publishing and inspiration for artists of the book, scholars and publishers whether print or online.

 

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Bookmarking Book Art – Chris Ruston

Ruston’s art celebrates the natural world and human spirit, inviting viewers “to follow, to unravel secrets, and to pay close attention to the world around them”.

Chris Ruston She Returns (2011) Ink, Watercolour Paper, Concertina Fold, 23.5cm x 18.5cm, Edition of 2

Chris Ruston
She Returns (2011)
23.5cm x 18.5cm, Edition of 2

Part of a series called Ocean Blue, the book She Returns uses a double concertina fold and ink on Fabriano watercolor paper to invite us to follow the image of a leatherback turtle making its way through the deep, which fluctuates between the depth of blue-black and the shallows of blue-white. The text reads

ruston-ocean-blue2

ruston-ocean-blueShe Returns
BLACK and GLEAMING
in the Moonlight
her Primordial needs
Roaming
Wave Washed Dreams.

 

Originating from the Tang dynasty (A.D. 618-908) in China as the Orihon, the concertina fold is also called the accordion fold and sometimes the leporello*. For “She Returns”, Ruston employs a variant of the binding approach in Figure 9. It is

From Hedi Kyle, "Orihon's Triumph: Origin and Adaptations of the Concertina Fold", The Ampersand, Vol. 3, No. 2, December 1982.

from Hedi Kyle, “Orihon’s Triumph: Origin and Adaptations of the Concertina Fold”,
The Ampersand, Vol. 3, No. 2, December 1982.

essentially two pages folded together into a concertina fold, but in origami terms, the “mountain” fold of one page is inverted to a “valley” fold, which creates “small boxes” between the pages when the concertina is opened as seen below. The single signature of transparent paper with text is sewn into the centre page. It is bound by a simple stitch top and bottom of each fold.

Painted board covers were then attached.”The stitches at the top and bottom of the page work well as it allows some small movement of the two concertina folds. As I saturate it with water and ink it needs to be a bit more robust but this means it can be bulky when put together.”

Binding detail of She Returns

Binding detail of She Returns

Binding detail of She Returns

The Holuhraun lava field, on 4 September 2014, during the 2014 eruption

The Holuhraun lava field, on 4 September 2014, during the 2014 eruption

The Bárðarbunga volcano in Holuhraun, Iceland, is active. From August 2014 to February 2015, it erupted for 181 days.

Lava fountains of the fissure eruption in Holuhraun on 13th September 2014 around 21:20.

Lava fountains of the fissure eruption in Holuhraun on 13th September 2014 around 21:20.

Ruston responded to that natural event with the work Holuhraun, 2014-2015.

Holuhraun, 2014-2015. Top view of closed box.

Holuhraun, 2014-2015 
Top view of closed box

Holuhraun, 2014-2015. "The pages are contained within an exploding box structure where the sides collapse as the lid is removed."

Holuhraun, 2014-2015
“The pages are contained within an exploding box structure where the sides collapse as the lid is removed.”

The box contains “181 individually painted pages, signed and dated for each day the volcano erupted producing ‘new land’.”

Holuhraun, 2014-2015. View of the pages.

Holuhraun, 2014-2015
View of the pages

Holuhraun 2014-2015
Chris Ruston

Holuhraun 2014-2015
Chris Ruston

Holuhraun 2014-2015
Chris Ruston

Ruston’s Holuhraun reflects that duality of nature’s destructive creation and creative destruction. The sides of the box falling away mimic the volcano’s production of new land. But the work is more subtle than that; it implicates the viewers in that duality. In taking apart the closed object, we “create” or, at least, reveal another object of art.  

Ice is the countervailing passion in Ruston’s art.

What a sight to wake up to on a cold winter’s morning – a blanket of thick frost over everything. Armed with camera, and a thick warm coat, I  couldn’t resist taking a detour on my way to the studio. The air was still, the grasses and branches coated with ice crystals, all bathed in a soft gentle light. I spent a pleasant hour surrounded by the gentle rustle of ice crystals softly  falling to the ground. (12/12/2012)

In response to her natural surroundings, as well as powerful films such as James Balog’s Chasing Ice (PBS, Nova, 2102) and installations like Olafur Eliasson’s Your Waste of Time (MoMA, New York, 2013), Ruston created Are We Listening?, a work of small pieces of handmade paper into which random text is incorporated and overlaid with transparent paper. Human time and earth time, destruction and creation, recurrently emerge as central themes in Ruston’s art whether touched by fire or ice.

Chris Ruston Are We Listening? (2013) Handmade paper, ink, transparent paper 15cm x 10cm

Chris Ruston
Are We Listening? (2013)
Handmade paper, ink, transparent paper
15cm x 10cm

In capturing these themes, The Great Gathering (2015) may be Ruston’s masterpiece — so far — in making visible how the world touches us, and how we touch the world. In this work, she has drawn her inspiration from ammonite fossils on display in the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences, Cambridge, and the Colchester Natural History Museum. The Great Gathering first appeared as an installation at the Colchester Natural History Museum, which is housed fittingly — especially for this work — in a deconsecrated church.

View of exhibition of The Great Gathering Natural History Museum Photo credit: Chris Ruston

The Great Gathering, Seven books, seven moments in time (2015)
Natural History Museum, Colchester, Essex, England
Photo credit: Chris Ruston

Chris Ruston The Great Gathering, Seven books, seven moments in time (2015) Mixed media

Chris Ruston
The Great Gathering, Seven books, seven moments in time (2015)
On display at Turn the Page, Norwich, England, May 2016
Photo credit: Chris Ruston

Ruston writes:

Using the ammonites spiral shape as a starting point, these books represent the unfolding story of evolution. The humble ammonite is an abundant index fossil, easily recognised, and a regular feature in museum collections. Often associated with journeys, symbolically these particular fossils are believed to have absorbed the knowledge of the Universe from across the centuries.

Science and art are the presiding geniuses over many works of book art.

In The sciences of the artificial (1969), Herbert Simon emphasized: “The natural sciences are concerned with the way things are” and engineering, with the way things ought to be to attain goals. Like the scientist, the artist, too, is concerned with the way things are. They are the raw material with which the artist works or to which he or she responds. But like the engineer or the designer, the artist is concerned with the way things ought to be to make visible “the way things are”:

Artist: Chris Ruston The Great Gathering, 2016 Photo credit: Chris Matthews

Chris Ruston
The Great Gathering, 2016
Photo credit: Chris Matthews

how a solander box ought to be constructed to operate with the work and, in enclosing it, be “the work”;

Chris Ruston The Great Gathering (2016) Photo credit: Chris Matthews

Chris Ruston
The Great Gathering (2016)
Photo credit: Chris Matthews

what materials (photos from the Hubble telescope) ought to be used to reflect a moment in time;

Chris Ruston The Great Gathering (2016) Photo credit: Chris Matthews

Chris Ruston
The Great Gathering (2016)
Photo credit: Chris Matthews

how thread, tape and stitch ought to be to hold together a spine that will flex and spiral into the shape of a fossil;

Chris Ruston The Great Gathering (2016) Photo credit: Chris Matthews

Chris Ruston
The Great Gathering (2016)
Photo credit: Chris Matthews

how the color of the material ought to be juxtaposed with the material’s altered shape to carry meaning;

Chris Ruston The Great Gathering (2016) Photo credit: Chris Matthews

Chris Ruston
The Great Gathering (2016)
Photo credit: Chris Matthews

how the shift from content to blankness ought to be juxtaposed with the material’s altered shape to carry meaning;

Chris Ruston The Great Gathering (2016) Photo credit: Chris Matthews

Chris Ruston
The Great Gathering (2016)
Photo credit: Chris Matthews

how the selection and alteration of text ought to be made to show the fixity and flux of knowledge and ourselves;

Chris Ruston The Great Gathering (2016) Photo credit: Chris Matthews

Chris Ruston
The Great Gathering (2016)
Photo credit: Chris Matthews

and how our reflection in the mirror in Volume VII under the maker’s tools and the made thing ought to implicate us — a theme echoed above by Holuhraun, 2014-2015 — in an ongoing process of making and remaking.

41ypojq70jl-_sx307_bo1204203200_For her next invitation to the viewer to follow, unravel secrets and attend closely, Ruston is returning to the ocean.

Inspired by Philip Hoare’s Leviathan and his fascination with Melville’s Moby Dick, Ruston recently began research into whales and whaling logs for her next work. Like evolution, here is a subject of grandeur, expanse and time, even fire and ice. The sketchbook pages below tantalize. How will the artist, this time, make visible how the world touches us?


More of Chris Ruston’s work can be found here.

*In Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni,  the main character’s manservant is Leporello, who, when singing the Catalogue Aria, produces a book that endlessly unfolds the list of Don Giovanni’s conquests.

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Bookmarking Book Art – Jacqueline Rush Lee, updated (2017)

The First Cut 2015 Transformed Harvard Loeb Library Translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses H7.75" x W5.5" x D6.5" Photo: Paul Kodama In Private Collection, NL

The First Cut, 2015
Transformed Harvard Loeb Library Translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses
H7.75″ x W5.5″ x D6.5″
Photo: Paul Kodama
In Private Collection, NL

The First Cut 2015 Transformed Harvard Loeb Library Translation of Ovid's Metamorphoses H7.75" x W5.5" x D6.5" Photo: Paul Kodama In Private Collection, NL

The First Cut, 2015
Transformed Harvard Loeb Library Translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses
H7.75″ x W5.5″ x D6.5″
Photo: Paul Kodama
In Private Collection, NL

a result of an ongoing series of work started in 2013 in which [she] inserted a sculptural book form into the cavity of a tree to simulate a whorl in a tree hollow. What was initially an artistic, whimsical gesture became one where conditions were set in action, and consequently, over time the books returned to their botanical origins and were gradually subsumed by nature. The books changed state; at first “painted’ by a natural patina of mold in which the colours mutated and muted over time. The forms then became petrified and wood-like, with traces of their former texts still present, but like cultural artifacts: positing how time, changing weather conditions, and insect activity would finally affect the narrative of the original work. As iconic vessels of culture, knowledge, and classification systems, WHORL resonates as an imprint on how we leave our mark on nature, and how nature eventually leaves its mark on us a larger, comprehensive system at work.

Detail from Whorl ("Nestled") 2016 Site-Specific Installation on view September 6, 2016- September 7, 2017 University of Hawaii at Manoa Art Building's Bamboo Breezeway © Copyright jacqueline rush lee 2017. All rights reserved.

Detail from Whorl (“Nestled”) 2016
Site-Specific Installation on view September 6, 2016- September 7, 2017
University of Hawaii at Manoa Art Building’s Bamboo Breezeway
© Copyright jacqueline rush lee 2017. All rights reserved.

Whorl. Transformed Book Sculpture Detail 2014. Part of an Ongoing Project H11.5" x W7.5" x D8" Photo Documentation: Jacqueline Rush Lee © Copyright jacqueline rush lee 2017.

Whorl, 2014
Transformed Book Sculpture Detail, Part of an Ongoing Project
H11.5″ x W7.5″ x D8″
Photo Documentation: Jacqueline Rush Lee
© Copyright jacqueline rush lee 2017. All rights reserved.

In the following commissioned work — based on Ovid’s Tristia — the artist has applied the technique from her 2007 inked series “… when [she] was also working with the sculptural and expressive qualities of paint and sumi-e ink. Referencing page layering, and the earlier faded ink fore edges of [her] Volumes series..this work invokes the meditative through the act of applying ink and obliterating meaning to create new meaning.”

Silenda (Black Sea Book). 2015 (Sister of Nous) Transformed Peter Green Translation of Ovid's "Tristia and the Black Sea Letters." H9.5" x W12" x D6.5." Manipulated Text, Ink, Graphite Photo: Paul Kodama In Private Collection, NL

Silenda (Black Sea Book), 2015 (Sister of Nous)
Transformed Peter Green Translation of Ovid’s Tristia and the Black Sea Letters
H9.5″ x W12″ x D6.5.” Manipulated Text, Ink, Graphite
Photo: Paul Kodama
In Private Collection, NL

The Tristia consists of letters and meditations that Ovid sent to Rome from Tomis on the Black Sea Coast, where the Emperor Augustus had exiled him for what Ovid mysteriously calls his carmen et error (poem and mistake).  Silenda is from the Latin for “mysteries” and “that which must be kept silent.”  The ink-saturated and unfurled pages of Silenda echo the poet’s black despair, the barrenness of exile, and the scarlet edging echoes his bleeding heart.

The sister work referred to in the caption is shown below.

Nous 2014 (There's no why Here) Manipulated Philosophy Book, Ink, Graphite Reason & Responsibility: Readings in Some Basic Problems of Philosophy, Fourteenth Edition. Feinberg & Shafer-Landau H13.5" x W12" x D9" H34.5 x W30.5 x D23cm Photo Paul Kodama

Nous (There’s no why Here), 2014
Manipulated Philosophy Book, Ink, Graphite
Reason & Responsibility: Readings in Some Basic Problems of Philosophy, Fourteenth Edition. Feinberg & Shafer-Landau
H34.5 x W30.5 x D23cm
Photo Paul Kodama

In informal usage, nous means common sense or practical intelligence; in its more formal philosophical usage (from the Greek), it means the mind, intellect or intuitive apprehension. The artist’s alliance of title, technique and material here enriches the work but also presents the viewer of Nous and Silenda with questioning insight into book art.

Since the technique has blacked out the volume’s essays on central issues in metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of religion, philosophy of mind, and ethics, as well as debates over the value of philosophy and the meaning of life, of course there is “no why Here”. Rush Lee is an exceptionally witty artist, so I wonder whether the pun also arises from the absence of a section on Aesthetics in the Feinberg anthology.

But that’s not the main query that Nous and Silenda taken together prompt. Both works are so similar in appearance that they could be mistaken for one another.  For book art in which the innovative technique yields such similarity of works, how should we react to pieces where meaningful distinction is implicit in such differences in the material used that can only be known from labels that may or may not accompany the works?  If we were to switch the labels of these two works, would we “mis-appreciate” them?

I think we would. Despite the close technical similarities of these two works, my reaction to each is enriched by knowing those differences and matching the choice of title of the work to the material used. That is a lesson I would apply even to works titled “Untitled” — the lesson really being to look harder, even beyond the “why”.

Bookmarking Book Art – Jacqueline Rush Lee (2013)

From the artist’s website:

Jacqueline has been working with books for fifteen years and is recognized for working with the book form. Her artworks are featured in blogs, magazines, books and international press. Selected bibliography include: BOOK ART: Iconic Sculptures and Installations Made from Books; PAPERCRAFT: Design and Art with Paper and PLAYING WITH BOOKS: The Art of Up cycling, Deconstructing, and Reimagining the Book. Jacqueline’s work will also be featured in Art Made from Books, Chronicle Press, 2013 by Laura Heyenga. …  She exhibits her artwork nationally and internationally and her work is in private and public collections, including the Allan Chasanoff Book Under Pressure Collection, NY.

The Chasanoff collection connects Lee with Doug Beube, whose work has been noted here. Beube was the curator of the Chasanoff Collection from 1993 to 2011.   In his interview with Judith Hoffberg in UmbrellaVol 25, No 3-4 (2002), he comments on the purposes of Allan Chasanoff, a book artist in his own right, in putting together the collection The Book Under Pressure:

There are a number of ideas that meets Allan’s criteria in acquiring work, of which I’ll try to convey a couple. The first is; the problem of the book to perpetuate information is inefficient, it’s an obsolete technology due to the advent of the computer.  Another premise is; at the latter part of the 20th century the book is being used for purposes other than its utilitarian design. Allan has been working extensively with computers and digital imaging since 1985 and understands that the book is as “an outdated modality”, he’s fond of saying. He’s not interested in the book decaying or in its destruction, nor is he referring to the content of books, artist’s books, production costs, mass appeal or where they get exhibited. His interest is in the book as an antiquated technology.

Lee’s process of kiln firing to transform individual books, as with the dictionary above, strikes a harmonious chord. The kiln does not reduce the book to ash but rather petrifies it.  Another way of exploring “the book under pressure.”   Lee’s and Beube’s work are brought together again by Paul Forte  at the Hera Gallery for an exhibition entitled Transformed Volumes.

 

 

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Bookmarking Book Art — Leilei Guo

Leilei Guo is an artist from Beijing.  A few years ago, I had the good fortune to meet her at the Frankfurt Book Fair, where she was standing among her works.

She drew my attention to The Way, a large volume open to a double-page spread on a shelf in the corner of the stand.

On each page of The Way is a square woodblock print, consisting of the Chinese character for Tao superimposed on a red figure. As the reader moves forward in the book, a darkening silkscreened wash gradually blots out the character.

Artist: Leilei Guo Work: The Way, 2008 Dimensions: 13.625 x 12.75"; 88 pages Material: Woodcut and silkscreen on rice paper. Concertina structure. Bound in cloth, front board in white, back board in black.

Artist: Leilei Guo
Work: The Way, 2008
Dimensions: 13.625 x 12.75″; 88 pages
Material: Woodcut and silkscreen on rice paper. Concertina structure. Bound in cloth, front board in white, back board in black.

Artist: Leilei Guo Work: The Way, 2008 Dimensions: 13.625 x 12.75"; 88 pages Material: Woodcut and silkscreen on rice paper. Concertina structure. Bound in cloth, front board in white, back board in black.

Artist: Leilei Guo
Work: The Way, 2008
Dimensions: 13.625 x 12.75″; 88 pages
Material: Woodcut and silkscreen on rice paper. Concertina structure. Bound in cloth, front board in white, back board in black.

She stepped aside to let me look closer. After I had turned a few pages in the usual way, I commented on the heft of what seemed to be uncut pages. Laid flat in its double-page spread with the sharpness of the fold and weight of the paper apparently sinking into its spine, the book did not immediately betray its leporello structure. She gently moved my hands away and inserted her hand in the fold between the two pages.

Artist: Leilei Guo Work: The Way, 2008 Dimensions: 13.625 x 12.75"; 88 pages Material: Woodcut and silkscreen on rice paper. Concertina structure. Bound in cloth, front board in white, back board in black.

Artist: Leilei Guo
Work: The Way, 2008
Dimensions: 13.625 x 12.75″; 88 pages
Material: Woodcut and silkscreen on rice paper. Concertina structure. Bound in cloth, front board in white, back board in black.

Then, performing a traditional gesture of Tai Chi, she moved her hand to and fro without removing it from between the fold, and the pages turned or rather flowed and folded, each over the next, as if of their own accord.  Gesturing from one side to the other and then back, again and again, she moved the print toward its opacity or clarity, depending on the direction. When she closed the volume, I could see that the board on one side was white, the board on the other, black.

 

According to the Vamp&Tramp’s website, which handled the work’s sale, the book embodies the artist’s vision of two strands of Chinese philosophy — Tao, or The Way, and Yin Yang. For me, that embodiment was in that moment in Frankfurt where another kind of printed book had its origin. Hand, movement, pages, ink, binding, the art were one.

For more of Leilei Guo’s art, visit the Vamp&Tramp site or the artist’s site.

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Bookmarking Book Art – Xu Bing

I count myself “magpie lucky”.

Bird Swallowing a Fish, 1913-14 Henri Gaudier-Brzeska Kettle's Yard exhibition, 2015

Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Bird Swallowing a Fish, 1913-14
Kettle’s Yard exhibition, 2015

The Gaudier-Brzeska exhibition, the finale before Kettle’s Yard would close for years, had drawn me to Cambridge. I spent hours there. Exhausted, I was walking back to the train past the Fitzwilliam Museum. I had read somewhere that Xu Bing would have a small solo exhibition at the Fitzwilliam.

from Xu Bing, Book from the Ground: From Point to Point (MIT Press, 2014)

from Xu Bing, Book from the Ground: From Point to Point (MIT Press, 2014)

I own a copy of Xu Bing’s Book from the Ground: From Point to Point – a pictographic account of twenty-four hours in the life of “Mr. Black,” a typical urban white-collar worker – and I had seen Book from the Sky at the Odd Volumes exhibition of Yale’s Allan Chasanoff Collection. So I took a chance.

Book from the Sky, 1991 Xu Bing The Allan Chasanoff Collection, Yale University Museum of Modern Art Photograph taken 31 January 2015

Xu Bing, Book from the Sky, 1991
The Allan Chasanoff Collection, Yale University Art Gallery

After first not recognizing my mispronunciation of Xu Bing and then hunting through some brochures, the attendants at the information desk directed me downstairs to a room of Chinese porcelain just outside the museum shop.  Among the glass cases of blue and white: Bird Language (2003), four brass and copper birdcages, containing toy birds that sing at the clap of your hands.  The mesh of two of the cages are composed of words in the Latin alphabet, the other two in Xu Bing’s faux Chinese calligraphy (what he calls “Square Word” and “New English” calligraphy). According to his site, “The words are questions that people have asked Xu Bing about art, and his answers.”

Xu Bing, Bird Language, 2003 Four brass and copper birdcages containing sound-activated toy birds, the cage mesh composed of English and "square word calligraphy", gravel.

Xu Bing, Bird Language, 2003
Four brass and copper birdcages containing sound-activated toy birds, the cage mesh composed of English and “square word calligraphy”, gravel.

Detail. Xu Bing, Bird Language, 2003 Four brass and copper birdcages containing sound-activated toy birds, the cage mesh composed of English and "square word calligraphy", gravel.

Detail. Xu Bing, Bird Language, 2003

They remind me of Gaudier-Brzeska’s Bird Swallowing a Fish, just a question of timing and the juxtaposition of two artists fascinated with a union of the animistic and mechanistic? Maybe it is these few other degrees of separation: Gaudier-Brzeska’s catalyzing effect on Ezra Pound in 1913, Pound’s creative misunderstanding of Chinese calligraphy, Pound’s disputably indisputable influence on the author of “Sailing to Byzantium” (1927), whose birds are “Of hammered gold and gold enamelling … set upon a golden bough to sing ….”, and now Xu Bing’s toy birds that require the body not the “Soul [to] clap its hands” and let the birds do the singing.

Xu Bing’s Book from the Sky must have been even more impressive in its Metropolitan Museum display (2013/14) than its partial form at the Yale Gallery (2015) as shown above, but that’s part of the pleasure of conceptual art. Whether billowing overhead on scrolls suspended from the ceiling and walls or juxtaposed in their bound book form with their wooden case, these hand-bound deliberately indecipherable, meaningless Chinese calligraphic forms printed from hand-carved wood blocks sing in the mind and soul. But what is that song? We have the impression of meaning, an impression conveyed by graphic gesture and the traditional containers of meaning. But there is a slippage between the impression of meaning and grasp of meaning.  Perhaps that is Xu Bing’s song.

The Khan Academy’s socio-political take on Xu Bing’s Book from the Sky — comparing it to Ai WeiWei’s performance art of smashing a Han dynasty vase — may usefully decipher the song for some. I think it misses a more profound point that Charlie Bennett approaches in his Aesthetica review of Xu Bing’s installation version of Book from the Ground (just closed on 28 February 2016 at the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Arts in Manchester, UK). The interactive mixed-media installation recreated Xu Bing’s art studio, including double-page spreads of the book pinned up on a wall, over-sized blow-ups of the pictographs from the book and two computers for visitors’ use.

Book from the Ground is also the name of Xu’s language-learning software program, which attendees can access on PCs in the gallery space. When words are typed into the tool, they are transformed into Xu’s pictographic language. It recalls a previous work of Xu’s, Introduction to [New] English Calligraphy (1994), which combines installation and interactive art, as visitors of a simulated classroom attempt to write what seems to be traditional Chinese calligraphy. But in the act of copying out the symbols on display, they realise the characters are reconfigured Roman letters that spell out words in legible English. Book from the Ground goes further in questioning transcultural communication; it instigates dialogue across borders only by negating all cultural differences in a de-localised set of coded representations.

With its English and Chinese birdcages, Bird Language, too, echoes Introduction to New English Calligraphy. But in the viewer’s interaction with the latter, the meaning that emerges is not what the viewer “intends” by copying out pretty lines. The experience of “communicated meaning” or “almost communicated meaning” seems accidental or magical. Likewise in Bird Language, we know that the sensor activates the toy bird and suspect a connection between the “magically activated” songs and the word-mesh cages. We suspect meaning.  We know the artist’s hand formed metal letters to form metal words in two different languages.  We suspect that each cage forms a narrative. We suspect there are differences in the narratives from the difference in round and square cage, English and Chinese cage. For some, that experience of suspicion might be frustrating; for others, delighting.

On further reflection, I think Xu Bing’s art challenges that modernist “union” of the animistic and mechanistic. With the sound-activation of digital birdsong and software-translation of words into pictographs, Bird Language and Book from the Ground (the installation) offer the slippery  intersection of the animistic, the mechanistic and the digital. Intersection is not always union, if by “union” we mean equivalence, meaning and clarity. “Made in China” birds are not swallowing or regurgitating brass symbols. Animistic and mechanistic input to digital translation or replication do not always yield union — equivalence, meaning or clarity. But in Xu Bing’s hands and mind — in their intersection with our hands and minds — they yield a suspicion of union. They yield art.

Detail. Xu Bing Bird Language, 2003

Detail. Xu Bing, Bird Language, 2003

Detail. Xu Bing, Bird Language, 2003

Detail. Xu Bing, Bird Language, 2003

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Bookmarking Book Art – Wilber Schilling

Henry James, The Beast in the Jungle, 1903. Allen Press, 1963. The copy shown is one of only 15 copies with an extra suite of 16 artist’s proofs, each titled, numbered 9/15 and signed by the artist in a separate portfolio.  Displayed online at Sophie Schneideman – Rare Books and Prints.

In his Books and Vines essays, Chris T. Adamson provides fresh, personal and insightful comments on fine book productions and their content such as Henry James’ “The Beast in the Jungle” from the Lewis and Dorothy Allen Press in 1963, pictured above.  An oenophile, as the title of his series suggests, Adamson also occasionally offers tips on the best wines with which to decant and read these works.

James is a favorite author at Books On Books as is Herman Melville. Indulge the punning coincidence of Adamson’s introducing us to Wilber Schilling’s Indulgence Press and his edition of Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street“.  Schilling’s edition of “Bartleby” – with Suzanne Moore’s original hand lettering of Bartleby’s classic statement “I would prefer not to” first appearing fully legible then becoming larger until it literally falls off the bottom of the final page – was an early career statement of an interest in more than fine press work but in book art as well.

Herman Melville, Bartleby the Scrivener: A Tale of Wall Street, 1853. Indulgence Press, 1995.

Herman Melville, Bartleby the Scrivener: A Tale of Wall Street, 1853. Indulgence Press, 1995.

Consider Schilling’s Half-Life/Full-Life and its binding a variation on the accordion/flag structure of Hedi Kyle and Claire Van Vliet.  The complexity of the form marries well with that of the intertwining, interleaving text and photos along the timelines of the Doomsday Clock and global warming.

Half Life/Full Life Wilber Schilling, 2009 ISBN: 0-9742191-5-0 Cover

Half Life/Full Life
Wilber Schilling, 2009
ISBN: 0-9742191-5-0
Cover

Schilling’s photography in Half Life/Full Life speaks to the importance of that craft in his overall portfolio. His photos of aging, decayed and unbound books are haunting and remind me of the found art of M.L Van Nice.

Natural History Multi-layered gum bichromate print 30" x 22" on Rives BFK 2004 Copyright © Wilber H. Schilling

Natural History
Multi-layered gum bichromate print
30″ x 22″ on Rives BFK
2004
Copyright © Wilber H. Schilling

Schilling has collaborated with Thomas Rose (visual artist and professor at the University of Minnesota),   Michael Dennis Browne (poet and librettist), Rick Moody (author of The Ice Storm) and Patricia Hampl (MacArthur Fellow poet and novelist). He has collaborated with Daniel E. Kelm (book artist, founder of the Garage Annex School for Book Arts and a collaborator with Suzanne Moore).

Given the influence of Marcel Duchamp and Joseph Cornell on works such as Arthur & Barbara (Arthur Danto and Barbara Westman) or Surplus Value Books: Catalog Number 13, you might say that Schilling has attempted to collaborate with them as well. The danger in that, of course, is highly derivative artwork. That early-career whiff of genius in commissioning the now famous calligrapher Suzanne Moore to hand letter “I would prefer not to” and spreading it in ever larger size across the pages might be what takes Schilling’s work beyond the derivative. His work is worth examining with that anticipation.

 

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Bookmarking Book Art – Jan Fairbairn-Edwards

Family Geology by Jan Fairbairn-Edwards consists of multiple related works to create the visual narrative of her Victorian era family’s emigration from the Norfolk fens to Australia. One of the central characters is her great aunt Sarah, who is the focus of the work Stratification of Sarah shown below.

Stratification of Sarah © Jan Fairbairn-Edwards

Stratification of Sarah, 2015
Jan Fairbairn-Edwards

Stratification of Sarah © Jan Fairbairn-Edwards

Stratification of Sarah, 2015 
Jan Fairbairn-Edwards

Symbolically, the six hanging “chapters” of Sarah’s journey move from the dun colors of the English fens to the hotter colors of Australia. The artist uses sheets of paper handmade from plants native to the Norfolk fens as well as traditional clothing fabric. The “geological” layers of the journey’s story are reflected in the stratified sheets that diminish in size from back to front.  The weathered documents appearing in each hanging are copies of found items from the family’s possessions or allusive artifacts, such as the article about Alice, “Jumbo’s widow“.

Alice was the African elephant being shipped aboard the HMSS Egyptian Monarch to join P.T. Barnum’s Jumbo in the US. Also on board the Monarch was Sarah, 10 years old when she embarked for the first sea leg of the journey to Australia. In another work in Family Geology called “Dear Mama”, the artist has invented a series of letters from Sarah, several of which tell of Sarah’s searching the ship for Alice.

"Dear Mama" Jan Fairbairn-Edwards

“Dear Mama”, 2015
Jan Fairbairn-Edwards

The other related works feature only fens-originated material, with the exception of a few pieces whose spines are branches of eucalyptus trees. Those spines and the hot Australian colors are the main physical manifestation of the Australian destination. As seen below, the stamps from the officialdom of the empire on which the sun never set provide another of the numerous unifying threads in the narrative.

Jan Fairbairn-Edwards

William’s Story, 2015
Jan Fairbairn-Edwards
Handmade papers with kozo and fenland plants, natural pigments, ink jet print (archival quality) on tracing paper, inks, string and eucalyptus wood binding

The artist suggested that I call this an installation. It is, but with the difference that there is this multi-threaded, narrative unity across and among the individual works that I have not noticed before in other installations. That unity makes me stumble a bit over the fact that the constituent works are purchasable individually, which casts the “installation” in something of a contrasting light. The work as a whole is one of remembrance and restoration. Doesn’t the removal of pieces of Family Geology undermine that?

Remember the 2014 installation Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red created by artists Paul Cummins and Tom Piper at the Tower of London: 888,246 ceramic poppies progressively filling the Tower’s famous moat between 17 July and 11 November?  Each red bloom represented a British military fatality in the First World War. The installation as installation resides only in the memories of its viewers and can be experienced only partially in photos, video clips or the website. The poppies sold individually over the web (I am one of the lucky owners of one of them). When I look at this single ceramic poppy, sometimes there is a failure of metonymic power – the ability of the part to stand for the whole.  Other times, it starts the image of a cascade of blood from a stone window into a moat of red. And so, what of a single work plucked from Family Geology?

The full impact of the installation – a family speaking to one another in and across time, from across seas and continents – something on which the viewer eavesdrops – rises like the musk from the back of an inherited chest’s bottom drawer full of old letters, curled newspaper clippings, fading photographs, pressed leaves and flowers. At first, you think it is the volume of  this manufactured memorabilia and their semi-invented, semi-found connectedness that is the source of that impact. But then you pick up William’s Story. The texture of its papers, the rough, dry sound of the leaves turning and the ash that flakes to the table from their edges take you deep into that musk through the one work.

You can sift through the several pieces of Fairbairn-Edwards’ Family Geology, and some will take you to the same place on their own, others lean much more on the presence of the installation. The thought of taking away from the whole one of its stronger parts leaves me hoping for an institutional white knight to purchase the “installation”.  Yet the scent of William’s Story on some visitor’s fingers is probably making him or her reach for a checkbook or credit card right now.

See also Turn the Page 2015, where Family Geology had its debut and was one of the eight finalists.

Family Geology will next be on show at Art & Papiers, Vézénobres (Gard), France, this month (June 2015).

 

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Bookmarking Book Art – Large-Scale Installations, Update 20170609

The Parthenon of Books, 1983/2017
Marta Minujín
Kassel, Germany

In her note in BookRiot, Nikki Steele takes Brian Dettmer’s  TED talk remark that books are created to relate to our human scale and builds on it elegantly, if all too briefly, by bringing together the installation works “Literature versus Traffic”, “Scanner”, “Book Cell”, “Singularity”, “Biographies” and “Contemporaries”. She’s not the first to provide a Pinterest– or Flickr-style burst of “ooh, look at this”, but unlike her predecessors, she makes the point worth pondering: this art that is not on a human scale evokes wonder and awe.

This challenges and expands on Dettmer’s point that people are disturbed by book art because we think of the book as a body, a living thing. As John Milton said, “As good almost kill a man as kill a good book: who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, God’s image; but he who destroys a good book kills reason itself”. That was in the context of book licensing laws that led to the confiscation and destruction of unlicensed books. Still, Milton would probably react as angrily to individual works of book art, and he might view the installations as if they were on the scale of the massacre of the Waldensians in the Piedmont.

Dettmer’s justification of book art that books “also have the potential to continue to grow and to continue to become new things”, that “books really are alive”, leaves us still squirming on the hook when Steele asks, “what happens when artists explode the scale and take books much, much larger?”. If you think cutting up or destroying a book is sacrilegious, what is your reaction to the 10,000 splayed in the streets of Melbourne by Luzinterruptus or the equal number cast by Alicia Martín into frozen defenestrations in Madrid and elsewhere in Spain or the even greater number in Marta Minujín’s The Parthenon of Books, installed for documenta in Kassel, Germany?

Miltonic eruption? Or Steele-ish delight, awe and love of the art?

Let’s raise the stakes and confusion. What if the books used in the single-volume work and installations were the Koran, the Bible or the Torah? Art and ethics are rarely happy bedfellows. Is there such a thing as “responsible art” that does not run afoul of the principle of the creative spirit or the integrity of art? Is art wholly without cultural, ethical or social contextual obligations?

This is why I like book art. It provokes just by coming into being. Its existence and appreciation are hard won.

Links on large-scale book art installations:

Tom Bendtsen

Melissa Jay Craig

Julie Dodd

Flux Foundation

Thilo Folkerts and Rodney Latourelle

Brian Goggin

Rune Guneriussen

Samuel Levi Jones

Anselm Kiefer

Matej Krén

Anouk Kruithof

Lacuna (Bay Area Book Festival and Flux)

Miler Lagos

Luzinterruptus

Alicia Martín

Marta Minujin

Math Monahan

Jan Reymond Rosace

Mike Stilkey

Rintala Eggertsson Architects

Rusty Squid

Liu Wei

Vita Wells

Wendy Williams

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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 – Helen Douglas

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 Pozas, its buildings and staircases, James’s 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, or taking the measure of paper samples between forefinger and thumb, or browsing in a bookstore, or 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. The work reminds me of this passage from Joseph Brodsky’s 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.

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

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

If you are lucky enough to buy one of the few remaining copies of A Venetian Brocade, you will see and feel how it leads to In Mexico: in the garden of Edward James. Appreciation of that double-sided leporello work’s extension of the Douglas’s concept of Visual Narrative and its kinship with James’s surrealism can only be enhanced by viewing The Secret Life of Edward JamesGeorge Melly’s documentary film from 1975.

But having indulged the surreal elements, think back to the pond at Deuchar, think back to the Tate’s association with Douglas’s work, then consider this work also held at the Tate:

Joseph Mallard William Turner, “Deuchar Old Bridge, near Yarrow, Selkirkshire”, 1834, in The Edinburgh Sketchbook 1831-34, graphite on paper, 111×181 mm. Reference: D26161
Turner Bequest CCLXVIII 34 a

Here is a narrative of art across time and place to touch by looking and, by looking, to be touched by.

An update (30 April 2017) covering Douglas’s Winter: Celestial Mountain (2015) can be found here.

*Deuchar is pronounced “dew-ker”, the “k” as in “loch”.
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Bookmarking Book Art — Sam Winston

"Darwin" by Sam Winston

“Darwin” by Sam Winston

Presented here is an ongoing exploration of Charles Darwin’s ‘On the Origin of Species’ and Ruth Padel’s ‘Darwin, A Life In Poems’.

I initially separated the text of these two books into nouns verbs, adjectives & other. I wanted to present a visual map of how a scientist and a poet use language – a look at how much each author used real world names (Nouns) and more abstract terminology (Verb, Adjective and Other) in their writings.

via Sam Winston : Darwin.

By determining the frequency of each part of speech and generating pointillist-like dots with different pencil lead weights assigned to each part of speech,  Winston also creates what he calls “Frequency Poems.”

"Origin Drawing" by Sam Winston

“Origin Drawing” by Sam Winston

A similar result is achieved by categorizing all the words from “Romeo & Juliet” under the headings solace, passion and rage and then creating a collage for each heading with the actual words.  Here from the artist’s site is the collage “Solace”:

"Solace" by Sam Winston

“Solace” by Sam Winston

Winston’s work wrestles with paradoxical “divides” and “unions” — the divide and union of science and poetry, those of categories and the whole, those of non-linear (patterned) and linear (narrative) meaning, that of the word as perceived object and semantic signal.

In technique and process, Winston’s work also implies a divide and union of the print and digital. It is no surprise then that Victoria Bean and Chris McCabe included Winston in The New Concrete: Visual Poetry in the 21st Century, an illustrated overview of artists and poets working at the intersection of visual art and literature.  As if to underline Bean’s and McCabe’s wisdom, Winston and Oliver Jeffers published the charming and innovative A Child of Books shortly afterwards. Winston’s creativity is equally at home with the trade book, installations of book art and finely crafted unique works.

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Bookmarking Book Art – A “white book report” on “The White Heat” at MARC STRAUS

Cardboard Box (White) for Invisible Text, “Called Back,” Epitaph for Emily Dickinson
Jeanne Silverthorne, 2017
Platinum silicone rubber, acid free paper, archival invisible ink
9 x 17 x 13 inches / 23 x 43 x 33 cm
Edition 1/3 with 1 A.P

Dare you see a soul at the white heat?
Then crouch within the door.
Red is the fire’s common tint;
But when the vivid ore
Has sated flame’s conditions,
Its quivering substance plays
Without a color but the light
Of unanointed blaze.
Least village boasts its blacksmith,
Whose anvil’s even din
Stands symbol for the finer forge
That soundless tugs within,
Refining these impatient ores
With hammer and with blaze,
Until the designated light
Repudiate the forge.    –  Emily Dickinson, Part One, Life, XXXIII

MARC STRAUS, the contemporary art gallery in the Lower East Side of New York, opened “an exhibition of white paintings and sculptures by an international selection of artists” on 3 June 2017. It runs through 3 July, and its title The White Heat comes from the first line of Dickinson’s poem above.

Books on Books offers this “white book report” on book art not included to put attendees in the mood for their experience of the works in white by artists such as

  • Damien Hirst
  • Nicole Eisenman
  • Enrico Castellani
  • Robert Barry
  • Fernanda Gomes
  • Antonio Santin
  • Jeanne Silverthorne
  • Joan Levison and others.

Book Faced Down – Embedded in Plaster, 1999
Found cook book and plaster block
Irwin Susskind, born 1935
34.6 x 20.9 x 6.5 cm (13 5/8 x 8 1/4 x 2 9/16 in.)
The Allan Chasanoff, B.A. 1961, Book Art Collection, curated with Doug Beube

Irwin Susskind‘s “Book Faced Down” is an example of the technique of mixed media – a stark white plaster block facing down the objectified cookbook –  to create book art. A piece of sheet cake, a cutting board?

Zurbarán’s Color Plates, 2011
Jonathan Callan
Chiseled book in perspex
46.4 × 71.1 × 5.7 cm

Jonathan Callan‘s piece denies viewers the colorful still lifes of Francisco de  Zurbarán and leaves them with this drained-of-color, chiselled double-page spread of a book on the artist.

Work of Linear – Actions, 2000
Noriko Ambe

Where Callan chisels away from the edges inward, Noriko Ambe carves from the inside almost to the edges in her work above.

Absence, 2004
J. Meejin Yoon

As the Straus exhibition notes, “In Chinese cultures, White is associated with Death.” In J. Meejin Yoon’s book Absence, the absence of color in a solid white block of thick stock cardboard pages and the “text” of one pinhole and two identical squares die-cut into each of its 120 pages – one for each story of New York’s Twin Towers including the antenna mast – lead the reader down through the missing buildings to the final page where the footprint of the absent structures ends in a die cut of the entire site of the World Trade Center.

Your House, 2006
Olafur Eliasson
Teixeira de Freitas, Lisboa, Portugal

Your House, 2006
Olafur Eliasson

Olafur Eliasson seems to have followed Yoon’s technical approach in Your House, 2006, although the effects are far more intricate.

Coral Colony, 2017 in progress
Julie K. Dodd

Untitled
Julie K. Dodd

Echoing Yoon’s somber note, Julie K. Dodd‘s paper and book art often dwell on environmental issues, such as the death of a coral colony above and the contours of the natural landscape versus manmade as shown in Untitled.

The Great Gathering,  VII The Time is Now, 2016
Chris Ruston
Photo credit: Chris Matthews

A more hopeful note is struck in the whiteness of Chris Ruston’s final “ammonite” book in the series The Great Gathering, inspired by Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. The mirror under the maker’s tools and the made thing implicate the viewer here and now in an optimistic ongoing evolutionary process of making and remaking.

Michael Mandiberg, Print Wikipedia, 2015
Exhibition “From Aaaaa! to ZZZap!” by the Denny Gallery, 261 Broome Street in New York City, 18 June through 11 July, 2015.

Where the white of Yoon’s and Dodd’s works evokes absence and the white of Ruston’s work evokes the blank invitation to singular creativity, Michael Mandiberg‘s installation of multiples, Print Wikipedia, evokes the plenitude of white noise that is our online lives.

Swiss Army Book

Swiss Army Book, 1990
M. L. Van Nice
Gift of Lois Pollard Price
National Museum of Women in the Arts

And just as technologically allusive, M.L. Van Nice‘s Swiss Army Book poses (tongue in cheek?) the single volume as somehow able to capture, store and transmit knowledge in ways it need not, albeit the meaning of the whiteness here is a bit elusive.

Legal Process Narrative, 1996
Werner Pfeiffer
Law Library, University of Connecticut at Storrs

Werner Pfeiffer’s works constitute an extensive treatment in white. The installation at UConn Storrs represents a small proportion of the works shown in retrospectives in the last ten years at Bucknell, Cornell and the Toledo (Ohio) Museum of Art. Pfeiffer’s works touch on censorship, and from his Cornell exhibition, he explains:

The objects I create are made with real books. They are not casts, nor are they sculpted imitations. At its core each piece has bound, printed pages. Glued together and painstakingly covered with gesso, they are silenced and sealed for good. I practice this destruction, this obvious censorship, simply as metaphor. It is to visualize, to demonstrate, to provoke. For these acts of violence are not about the damage done to stacks of paper, to books. The objects are about the harm inflicted on the human spirit. The ropes, the nails, the clamps, the hooks and knifes are real as well. They are symbols of pain, of torture, of suppression which are inevitably brought on by the censor’s act.

Knotty Story
Werner Pfeiffer

Difficult to Fit
Werner Pfeiffer

With the advent of ebooks, Pfeiffer celebrates the tangibility of the book with his white gessoed book objects and their punning titles as well as origami-like works such as Zig-Zag.

But back to the white works of art at the MARC STRAUSS gallery.  Book art is not entirely neglected. Following in their tradition since 1984, Tim Rollins and K.O.S. (“Kids of Survival”) pondered, discussed and “jammed” on 1895 novella by H.G. Wells to produce THE TIME MACHINE (after H.G.Wells), which is included in the exhibition.

THE TIME MACHINE (after H.G. Wells)
Tim Rollins and K.O.S., 2013
Matte acrylic, pencil, book pages on canvas
4 parts, each: 12 x 12 inches / 30.5 x 30.5 cm
Overall: 24 x 24 inches / 61 x 61 cm
Courtesy Studio K.O.S. and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong.

According to the artists, “We believe that every total work of art is a time machine – a synthesis of a living past and present located in an object that can only be completed by the social experience of a viewer in the future. The total work of art exists in the invisible fourth dimension of space/time and it is this notion that unites the works in the exhibition. We paint on historic texts in the present so that they can haunt our futures.”

Suitably prepared? Jump in your time machine and head over to 299 Grand Street, on the Lower East Side in New York, and immerse yourself in “The White Heat“.

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Bookmarking Book Art – Louisa Boyd

Flare
2013
Magnani handmade white wove paper
12cm x 12cm x 8cm
© Louisa Boyd, reproduced with permission of the artist

Through abstraction and symbol, Louisa Boyd‘s art focuses on sense of place and our intrinsic connection to nature. The titles of three of her artist’s book series – Infinity, Landscape, and Mapping – and those of the book art in them – Aether (2013), A Walk (2001), and Cartography I (2014)  – reflect that focus. How she manages abstract imagery and symbol across her range of material and techniques – paper (including hand-marbled paper), book structure, printmaking (block, screen, letterpress), watercolor, metalwork, leatherwork – adds to that unifying focus through a rightness of choice but also introduces a breadth of originality and variety.

In Aether, the crayon work, cutting and metalwork are applied with a three-dimensional sense wedded to an obvious understanding of the possibilities of the page and double-page spread. The st0p-motion animation video tour of Aether (click on the image below) makes you wonder if Boyd conceived the work as a flipbook in the first place. There is no wondering, however, about the place of human existence in relation to the aether. In the video, look at the lower righthand fore-edge of the book.

Aether
2013
Leather handbound artist’s book with box. Cover in leather and paper onlay. Edge coloring.
© Louisa Boyd, reproduced with permission of the artist
For a video tour of Aether, click on the image.

A Walk illustrates Boyd’s skill with freestanding three-dimensional sculpture, a skill that has grown in The Flight Series (more later on two of its works from 2009) and The Paper Manipulation Series, from which the work Flare above comes.

A Walk 
2001
Handbound artists book, torn and cut with each page individually painted to depict the different views of a walk through the landscape. Watercolour on paper.
© Louisa Boyd, reproduced with permission of the artist
For a video tour of A Walk, click on the image. (Caveat: The title of the work in the video varies from that here, which is taken from Boyd’s website.)

Her use of abstract markings and the Turkish map folding technique in Cartography I demonstrates again her careful marriage of abstraction, symbol and technique.

Cartography I
2014
Turkish map-fold book with etched pages and collagraph end papers. Somerset paper. Blind tooled leather cover.
Edition of 3
Dimensions open: H 5” x W 10”x D 4”
Dimensions closed: diameter 5”, depth 1”
© Louisa Boyd, reproduced with permission of the artist

The etching printed on each of the three internal folded pages is an abstract that nevertheless evokes mapping, which the form and fold of the pages reinforces. Each Turkish fold page can lay flat to be viewed individually, or as pictured above and below, the book may be viewed as a sculpture.

Cartography I from above
© Louisa Boyd, reproduced with permission of the artist

The video tours (links embedded the images of Aether and A Walk above) represent Boyd’s search for what she calls “a bridge between traditional and contemporary media”. So far, that exploration reflects the artist’s rootedness in the book arts and traditional skills and processes of drawing, printing and painting. It is intriguing to think what effect a bit of influence from Helen Douglas or Amaranth Borsuk might have on Boyd’s bridge. The use of stop-action video for Aether hints at an instinct for what Douglas calls “visual narrative”.

A professed recurrent theme in Boyd’s book art is “restriction and freedom”. Although it arises from periods of city dwelling and lack of access to the countryside, imposed by the UK’s 2001 “foot and mouth” epidemic, it manifests itself in the more “traditional” spur of constraint of form and structure that goads an artist’s imagination. Flock (2009) and A Walk bear close resemblance, but note the difference in invention whereby the former plays with the book form by placing the bird imagery at the edges, spirals the paper tearing upwards and gradates the watercolor from dark to light (like a flock dispersing) and the latter deals with the “restricted” walk by blending the watercolor with tearing and tunneling.

Flock
2009
Artist’s book with watercolour
© Louisa Boyd, reproduced with permission of the artist

Take Flight (2009) frees its bird imagery even more fully from the structure of the book and occupies space as a fully three-dimensional work.

Take Flight
2009
Artist’s book with watercolour
© Louisa Boyd, reproduced with permission of the artist

Detail
Take Flight
2009
Artist’s book with watercolour
© Louisa Boyd, reproduced with permission of the artist

 

Multifaceted
2014
edition of 4
Dimensions closed 4” x 2” x 1/2” (10cm x 5cm x 1cm) open 4” x 21 1/2” (9cm x 51cm)
Leather, oil-based ink, Somerset and Magnani paper
© Louisa Boyd, reproduced with permission of the artist

Although Multifaceted returns to the theme of different views that was the intent in A Walk, it tilts the theme more toward the abstract side of Boyd’s work. In this, Multifaceted is more akin to the works in The Paper Manipulation Series: Flare (2013), Whorl (2013), and Pleat (2013). It almost purely plays with the concept of differing perspectives. Again, techniques and form express concept with a simple rightness. This double-sided leporello is designed to be viewed from four different angles. The display of photos here cannot offer the intended perspective (pun intended): the viewer needs to circle the piece to view its facets. That word “facet” is tooled on the interior pages four times, the clue as to how the book should be read.

Multifaceted I from above
© Louisa Boyd, reproduced with permission of the artist

Multifaceted II collage view
© Louisa Boyd, reproduced with permission of the artist

The abstract imagery evoking landscape or skyscape – whether juxtaposed vertically or horizontally – plays with viewpoint. Even the print technique on the interior pages plays with viewpoint: they are prints of an etching inked up both in relief and intaglio.  Breaking free of the ultimate restriction of the book, the pages are not attached to the cover, allowing the piece to be read in four different directions. These features of the work and the seeming absence of that human figure from Aether throw it back on the viewer’s necessary engagement to establish fully the human connection: by engaging with Multifaceted – “reading” it –  the viewer enacts the human place in the aether around the work.

Since graduating from Manchester Metropolitan University in 2001 and winning the Paperchase Future of Design Award (2001) and receiving a high commendation from the judges of the New Designer of the Year (2001), Boyd has exhibited in 46 venues. Her 47th is the most significant so far: inclusion in the John Ruskin Prize Shortlist Exhibition at Millennium Gallery in Sheffield, UK (21 June – 8 October, 2017). If this book artist manages to continue her sure-handed forging of concept, material and method, the Ruskin Prize Shortlist Exhibition will not be her last significant exhibition.

 

 

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Bookmarking Book Art – Susan E. King

Susan E. King’s works held at the Corcoran Gallery and College of Art & Design in Washington, DC.


RECORD

Copy: 1 ARTISTS BOOKS
Call Number: NE508 .K55 1976
Status: Non-Circulating
Item ID: 52672010188608
Collection Type: ARTISTS BOOKS
Media: ARTIST-BOOK

Author:
King, Susan Elizabeth, 1947-

Title Statement:
Lessons from the South / [text and design by Susan E. King].

Published:
Atlanta, Ga. (608 Ralph McGill Blvd., N.E., Atlanta, Ga. 30312) : Available from Nexus Press ; Santa Monica, Calif. (P.O. Box 5306, Santa Monica, Calif. 90405) : Available from Paradise Press, c1986.

Description:
[10] leaves (5 folded) : ill. ; 28 cm.

General Note:
The leaves are tipped on to a backing strip folded accordion-style and attached to separated upper and lower boards.



Author:
King, Susan Elizabeth, 1947-

Title Statement:
Passport / Susan Elizabeth King.

Published:
Venice, Calif. : S. King ; Los Angeles : printed at Women’s Graphic Center, c1976.

Description:
ca. [32] leaves : ill. ; 18 cm.

General Note:
Cover title.

Subject:
Artists’ books — California.

Subject:
King, Susan Elizabeth, 1947-

Copy 1:
Non-Circulating

 

 

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