Books On Books Collection – Jaz Graf

Trophic Avulsions (2016)

Trophic Avulsions (2016)
Jaz Graf
Cyanotype accordion book with thread drawing, paper lithography and laser engraving on wood. Closed: H6 x W8.5 x D1.0 inches; Open: W80 inches. Unique. Acquired from the artist, 14 March 2018. Photos: Books On Books Collection.


Graf has used satellite photos of various river deltas around the world to create the cyanotype prints in this work. The patterns from which are exposed come from paper litho prints made on fabric. The result is a blurring, softening yet “nearing” of the otherwise sharp, scientific and remote images normally viewed on digital screens or photographic paper. As Graf points out in her description, the word trophic “relates to an ecological concept of the trophic cascade, in which one action leads to another in an ecosystem, implying ideas of interconnectivity.”  

That interconnectivity and the impact we have on “the separation of land from one area and its attachment to another”, which is what avulsion means, is implied by the streams of thread meandering across and off the panels of the accordion form from beginning to end. Even though the panels fold to fit within their laser-engraved birch panels, they vary in width, which breaks up the expected regularity of the accordion when it is extended. The engravings show a delta emptying into a desert and are mounted on wood blocks covered in muslin bearing the printed delta image made with paper lithography. 

Thread drawing is a technique common to several outstanding works of book art: Jody Alexander’s Felix’s Notebook (2008), Marion Bataille’s Vues/Lues (2018), Dianna Frid’s Reversal (2009), Candace Hicks’ Composition (2009~), Helen Hiebert‘s Nebulae (2017), Shellie Holden’s Maps (2006), Lisa Kokin’s Partial History of Jewish Life in Modern Times (1997), Ines Seidel’s Changed Constitution (2015) and Mireille Vautier‘s Agenda (2001) among others. Graf’s handling of the technique and its combination with cyanotype printing and lithography in the treatment of her theme, though, make it distinctive and original.

The environmental focus of Trophic Avulsions places it in a well-loved tradition in book art. Other works by Graf, such as Mother Water (2018) below, would be comfortably at home in an exhibition with

Biography (2010) by Sarah Bryant, who creatively connects the human body’s elements with those of the periodic table to bear witness to our impact on the environment and vice versa;

the Ice Books series (2007-17) by Basia Irland, who selects local seeds and embeds them as “text” in a block of frozen river water, carved into the shape of a book to be released into the local river where it melts, releasing the seeds;

the Whorl series (2013- ongoing) by Jacqueline Rush Lee, who returns books to their botanical origins by sculpting books and inserting them into the cavity of a tree to allow time, changing weather conditions and insect activity to rewrite them into the shape of a whorl in a tree hollow;

Batterers (1996) by Denise Levertov, Kathryn Lipke and Claire Van Vliet, who combine Levertov’s powerful poem extending a metaphor of abuse to the earth with Lipke’s clay paperwork set into a wooden tray as the base of this sculptural book, whose pages Van Vliet makes unfold into a fiery landscape; or

Silent Spring Revisited (2016) by Chris Ruston, who uses her frequent visits to natural history museums to inspire works that blend science and art that highlight extinction and the interdependence of humans and nature.

If such an exhibition — a twentieth anniversary of Betty Bright’s 1992 “Completing the Circle: Artists’ Books on the Environment”? — were organized, Trophic Avulsions would be available to loan!

Mother Water (2018)
Laser-etched acrylic, cyanotype, porcelain
Dimensions variable (15 panels – each 14”x11”)
The river featured is Thailand’s Chao Praya. Photo: Courtesy of the artist.

Books On Books Collection – Susan Hiller

The Artist’s Palette Alphabet (2013)

The Artist’s Palette Alphabet (2013)

Susan Hiller

Glued board with 26 removable postcards as pages, offset and letterpress on card. H102 x W155 mm. Edition of 500 and special edition of 25 signed and numbered, with original postcard attached to the cover, of which this is #22. Photos: Books On Books Collection.

Like Hiller’s first book, Rough Sea (1976), this compilation of postcards uses the postcard as art material not only to create an artwork but also to color and shape it with this form of collective memory. By making the postcards detachable this time, she also taps into a democratic strain with artist books. Each copy of the work has the potential of being partly shared with 26 other recipients, leaving The Artist Palette Alphabet to exist only as its cover.

For a collection like Books On Books, the choice of the special edition copy showing Frankfurt-am-Main, home of the centuries-old book fair, was inevitable and lucky.

Further Reading

ABCs: Bookmarking Book Art”, Books On Books, 29 November 2015.

Marion Bataille”, Books On Books Collection, 26 March 2020.

Various articles on Hiller, including a review from Harper’s Bazaar on Hiller’s posthumous solo exhibition at Frieze Masters and Matt’s Gallery in October 2019.

Books On Books Collection – Abecedaries (in progress)

Islam Aly, 28 Letters

Marion Bataille, ABC3D

Tia Blassingame, Mourning/Warning: An Abecedarian

Joyce Cutler-Shaw, Alphabet of Bones

Jennifer Farrell, The Well-Travelled Ampersand

John Gerard, Alpha Beta

Moussa Kone: The Abecedarium of the Artist’s Death: 26 Dangers for Your Career

Russell Maret, Hungry Dutch

Scott McCarney, Alphabook 3

Cathryn Miller, L is for Lettering

Andrew Morrison, Ampersands&

Movable Books Society, A to Z: Marvels in Paper Engineering

Suzanne Moore, A Blind Alphabet

Ludwig Zeller, Alphacollage

Further Reading

ABCs“, Bookmarking Book Art, 29 November 2015.

Books On Books Collection – Marion Bataille

ABC3D (2008)

ABC3D (2008)
Marion Bataille
Hardcover, paper on board, with holograph on front cover; H187 x 147 x D44 mm; 36 pop-up or movable pages. Acquired from Amazon.de, 31 May 2018.

“A” to “Z”

Becoming a “B”

“C” revealing a “D”

“X” sliding to “Y”

Although this book is available at retail, it is a delicate work. With small removable protective slips of paper inserted at points of friction, it is not a work to pull off the shelf, flip through and replace casually. “Flipping through” misses too much anyway. These are pages to tease apart, peer between, draw taut with fingers and thumbs holding the opposite edges tight, and work back and forth gently to appreciate the engineering.

VUES/LUES: Un Abécédaire de Marion Bataille (2018)

VUES/LUES (2018)
Marion Bataille
Leporello: H150 × W110 mm. Stitched card: H:110 x W250 mm. Acquired from Éditions ~zeug, 13 April 2020.

Vue means “view, sight, vision/eyesight or outlook”. “Picture postcard views” in French would be vues de carte postale. Lues is the past participle of the verb lire (“to read”) in the feminine plural, so the French for “Marion’s picture postcard views can be easily read as an abecedary” would be Les vues de cartes postale de Marion peuvent être lues facilement comme une abécédaire.

Facilement (“easily”), of course, depends on reading this leporello laterally in book fashion, not laterally in landscape fashion. But is it “O” for bull ring or bull ring for “O”?

Further Reading and Viewing

ABCs: Bookmarking Book Art”, Books On Books, 29 November 2015.

ABC3D video from the publisher Albin Michel/Roaring Brook Press.

Books by Marion Bataille and Complete Book Reviews”, Publishers Weekly, 18 August 2008. Accessed 25 March 2020.

Bataille, Marion. 10 (Paris: Albin Michel, 2010).

Bataille, Marion. AOZ (Paris: Le Trois Ourses, 2016).

Bataille, Marion. Bruits (Paris: Thierry Magnier, 2016).

Bataille, Marion. Numéro (Paris: Albin Michel, 2013).