Bookmarking Book Art – Margot Klass

Margot Klass is a book artist of the northern latitudes.  A studio in Fairbanks, Alaska; another in Corea, Maine.

One of her geographically characteristic works in the “flitch book”. A “flitch” is a cross-sectioned slab of timber. Take two flitches for the front and back of a Coptic-bound book, and you have a flitch book.

Flitch Book
Coptic binding, twig and leather clasp, ivory inlay, approx. H. 4.5″

 

She says that her influences are Kurt Schwitters and Japanese aesthetics. In the works she labels “altarpieces”, I see Joseph Cornell and Georgia O’Keefe as well. Paul Watson’s succinct, 2003 entry on the assemblage technique holds up Schwitters and Cornell as practitioners and makes for an interesting path into appreciating Klass’s art. 

Alaska Book of Hours: Prime – Spring,
27” x 14” x 6” (2011)

 

Reliquary – Open

 

The 2007 bulletin from the Denali National Park and Reserve, where Klass was one of several artists in residence, nicely summarizes her aesthetic:

Margo Klass is a student of aesthetic space who creatively uses light to produce sculptural boxes. She studied Northern Renaissance artists for their use of spaces receding into the distance, and she has been influenced by the interior spaces and exterior landscapes of Japanese temples. During her residence in the park she used sketching, watercolors, and photography.

In 2012, Robert Hannon echoed this in a brief notice and radio interview on the occasion of her exhibit at the Fairbanks Alaska House Gallery. In 2016, the College Book Art Association presented Klass as a “Featured CBAA Artist” and also commented on the impact of medieval art on her work. But her own article from February 2017 provides the second best path to appreciating her work.

The best path is, of course, the work itself, which is well illustrated in that article.

Further reading:

Klass, Margo. “On Home Ground: Box Constructions“, Terrain.org, 14 February 2017.

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.

 

Bookmarking Book Art — Thomas Wightman

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Derailing My Train of Thought, Thomas Wightman

Update:  TW’s latest work.

If it’s didactic, is it art?    By his own words, Thomas Wightman’s bookworks are intended as a vehicle for a message.

This project was to describe aspects of my final year project theme and primary research made so far as a ‘vehicle’.  …  My major project theme is Addiction, primarily looking at obsessive driven addictions. … The book firstly is closed hiding the addiction from view in the same manner as those who hide these addictions from loved ones and friends. … when the book is opened it reveals the chaotic emotions felt. Panic attacks are … associated with Obsessive Compulsive disorder and I … convey this through the metaphor of a sinking ship in a vortex …. Also the symptoms of a panic attack include loss of breath in the same way as drowning in water. …  a tethered anchor and a typographic rope show these problems can be solved and the ship can be salvaged in the same way as those who suffer from OCD when they receive proper treatment.

Drowning from Obsession,  Thomas Wightman
Drowning from Obsession, Thomas Wightman

His next work continues the message with different metaphors.  Its title “Plagued by Doubt” is a phrase repeated by an OCD sufferer, and Wightman has created a spiraling cutout of the repeated phrase and positioned it over the moth-eaten hole in the book.

Plagued by Doubt, Thomas Wightman
Plagued by Doubt, Thomas Wightman

This work is simultaneously delicate and ominous, perhaps more so than the first effort.  Wightman’s skill is on a par with that of the mystery sculptress of Edinburgh, but are these message-bearing works of book art as deeply artistic?  Once the metaphoric lock has been unpicked, is there an urge to unpick it again?  Like Joseph Cornell’s boxes, do the works warrant revisiting again and again?

If didacticism in art is in resurgence, these two bookworks make an impressive contribution, but just perhaps, they are more than that.

Related articles:

More Than Just Didactic Art

Art Bras Bring Attention to Women’s Health Issues

The Art of Public Health

Health Problems? Art Cures All

Book Artists “Reassemble” Baghdad’s Bombed Books: “Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here” An Exhibition at the San Francisco Center for the Book Now Through May 11, 2013 (prweb.com)

Bookmarking Book Art – Books on Book Art | 4 August 2013

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Abt, Jeffrey. The Book Made Art: A Selection of Contemporary artists’ Books Exhibited in Joseph Regenstein Library – University of Chicago, February Through April 1986 Exhibition catalog.

Antaya, Christine and Sloman, PaulBook Art: Iconic Sculptures and Installations Made from Books Gestalten (May 26, 2011). Documents current art, installation, and design created with and from books. “The fascinating range of examples in Book Art is eloquent proof that–despite or because of digital media’s inroads as sources of text information–the book’s legacy as an object and a carrier of ideas and communication is being expanded today in the creative realm.” Book jacket. See interview with Antaya and some of the artists here.

The Book as Instrument: Stephane Mallarmé, the Artist’s Book, and the Transformation of Print Culture – Anna Sigridur Arnar. An academic study of the literary and cultural seedbed of book art. “This is a highly ambitious, original account of Stéphane Mallarmé’s lifelong engagement with the book and the vast network of forces (cultural, aesthetic, political) that both informed this engagement and were transformed by it. Anna Sigrídur Arnar seamlessly brings together divergent areas of inquiry in order to support the idea that the book was and remains a site of numerous debates about democracy, public and private space, the uses of art and print, and the role of authors and readers. The Book as Instrument is elegantly written, in engaging and highly readable prose. Arnar succeeds in presenting and analyzing with remarkable lucidity ideas that many of us have learned to approach as difficult and thus nearly off-limits. This will be an important work of scholarship for a variety of disciplines.” (Willa Z. Silverman, Pennsylvania State University).

Art Is Books: Kunstenaarsboeken/Livres D’Artistes/Artist’s Books/Künstlerbücher – Guy Bleus. Catalog of a travelling exhibition in 1991. See also Artists’ Books on Tour edited by Kristina Pokorny-Nagel.

No Longer Innocent: Book Art In America 1960-1980 – Betty Bright. A history of an important period in book art. Like Drucker (below), Bright categorizes book art, places it within the movements of the period and profiles its individual and institutional supporters. Artbook review.

Artists’ Books: The Book As a Work of Art, 1963-1995Stephen Bury. Explores the impact artists had on the format of the book.

A Century of Artists Books — Riva Castleman. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1994. NAL pressmark: AB.94.0020. A catalog of an exhibition held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The selection tends toward the livre d’artiste but does address the impact of the digital shift on artists’ books.

Chapon, François. Le Peintre et le Livre: l’Age d’Or du Livre Illustré en France 1870–1970. Paris: Flammarion, 1987. NAL pressmark: 507.C.172

Courtney, Cathy. Speaking of Book Art: Interviews with British and American Book Artists. Los Altos Hills: Anderson-Lovelace, 1999. NAL pressmark: AB.99.0001

New Directions in Altered Books – Gabe Cyr. A book of projects and techniques by a book artist.

The Century of Artists Books – Johanna Drucker. “A folded fan, a set of blocks, words embedded in lucite: artists’ books are a singular form of imaginative expression. With the insight of the artist and the discernment of the art historian, Drucker details over 200 of these works, relating them to the variety of art movements of the last century and tracing their development in form and concept. This work, one of the first full-length studies available of artists’ books, provides both a critical analysis of the structures themselves and a basis for further reflection on the philosophical and conceptual roles they play. From codex to document, from performance to self-image, the world of artists’ books is made available to student and teacher, collector and connoisseur. A useful work for all art collections, both public and academic.”Paula Frosch, Metropolitan Museum of Art Library, Library Journal.

#5168 Altered Book – Special Effects (Design Originals) – Laurie Goodson. One of a series of booklets on book-alteration techniques. Other authors include Beth Cote and Cindy Pestka.

Altered Books, Collaborative Journals, and Other Adventures in Bookmaking – Holly Harrison. A showcase of book art with an emphasis on multi-artist collaborations.

The Cutting Edge Of Reading: Artists’ Books – Judd Hubert and Renee Hubert. Published in 1999, a close examination of 40 examples of book art. Illustrated.

Books Unbound – Michael Jacobs. A book of projects by a book artist.

Johnson, Robert Flynn. Artists Books in the Modern Era 1870–2000: the Reva and David Logan Collection of Illustrated Books. London: Thames & Hudson, 2002. NAL pressmark: AB.2001.0002

Artists’ Books: A Critical Survey Of The Literature – Stefan Klima. A 1998 monograph summarizing the debates over the artists’ book. 

Book + Art: Handcrafting Artists’ Books – Dorothy Simpson Krause. A book of projects by a book artist; covers mixed-media techniques as well as bookbinding.

The Penland Book of Handmade Books – Jane LaFerla (Editor); Alice Gunter (Editor); Lark Books Staff. Tutorials, inspiration and reflective essays by book artists.

500 Handmade Books – Steve Miller. A highly illustrated, wide-ranging coffee table book.

Artists’ Books on Tour – Kathrin Pokorny-Nagel. Catalog of a travelling exhibition organized and sponsored by MAK (Austrian Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna), MGLC (Llubljana’s International Centre of Graphic Arts) and UPM (Museum of Decorative Arts) in 2011.

1,000 Artists’ Books: Exploring the Book as Art – Sandra Salamony. External and internal views of works, descriptions at the end of the book.

Joseph Cornell’s Manual of Marvels: How Joseph Cornell reinvented a French agricultural manual to create an American masterpiece – Dickran Tashjian and Analisa Leppanen-Guerra (editors). A part-facsimile, part-DVD, part-boxed-presentation that gives some idea of the artwork by Joseph Cornell held in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The artwork is Cornell’s alteration of the Journal d’Agriculture Practique (Volume 21, 1911), a handbook of advice for farmers.

Playing with Books: The Art of Upcycling, Deconstructing, and Reimagining the Book – Jason Thompson. Techniques-driven; covers bookbinding, woodworking, paper crafting, origami, and textile and decorative arts techniques.

Masters: Book Arts: Major Works by Leading Artists – Eileen Wallace. Illustrated selection of work from 43 master book artists with brief comments from the artists about their work, careers, and philosophies.

The Book As Art – Krystyna Wasserman; Audrey Niffenegger (Text by); Johanna Drucker (Text by). An illustrated volume covering over 100 artists books held in the permanent collection of the Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C.

Book Art: Creative Ideas to Transform Your Books, Decorations, Stationary, Display Scenes and More – Claire Youngs. A crafts book of 35 projects.