Books On Books Collection – Jean Holabird

Vladimir Nabokov: AlphaBet in Color (2005)

Vladimir Nabokov: AlphaBet in Color (2005)
Jean Holabird
Black cloth boards, silver lettering to spine, blind stamped lettering to front board, illustrated title label to inner board; internally bound in the Japanese style with opening overlapping boards and staggered colored pages. H175 W235 mm, 40 pages. Acquired from Klondyke (Almere NL), 11 November 2021.
Photos of the book: Books On Books.

Publisher’s statement:

Vladimir Nabokov saw rich colors in letters and sounds and noted the deficiency of color in literature, praising Gogol as the first Russian writer to truly appreciate yellow and violet. He saw q as browner than k, and s as not the light blue of c, but a curious mixture of azure and mother-of-pearl. For anyone who has ever wondered how the colors Nabokov heard might manifest themselves visually, Alphabet in Color is a remarkable journey of discovery. Jean Holabird’s interpretation of the colored alphabets of one of the twentieth century’s literary greats is a revelation. The book masterfully brings to life the charming and vibrant synesthetic colored letters that until now existed only in Nabokov’s mind. In Alphabet in Color Jean Holabird’s grasp of form and space blends perfectly with Nabokov’s idea that a subtle interaction exists between sound and shape.

As puzzling as the phenomenon of synesthesia is, Holabird’s depictions and the book’s architecture are more engaging in their own right. The lapping pages and binding make this work awkward to handle, which might be thought of as a complement to the book’s non-alphabetical and non-spectral order of letters and colors. It is a warm complement to Le Cadratin’s cool rendition of Rimbaud’s sonnet “Les Voyelles“.

Further Reading

William Joyce“. 18 June 2021. Books On Books Collection. Another example of graphemic-color synesthesia.

Le Cadratin“. 8 February 2022. Books On Books Collection.

Cohut, Maria. 17 August 2018. “Synesthesia: Hearing colors and tasting sounds“. Medical News Today. Accessed 2 February 2022.

Campen, Crétien van. 26 July 2012. “Bibliography: Synesthesia in Art and Science“. Leonardo. Accessed 2 February 2022.

Cytowic, Richard E. 2018. Synesthesia. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Books On Books Collection – Marlene MacCallum and the “Shadow Cantos”

Shadow Canto Series (2018-2019)
Marlene MacCallum

Shadow Canto One: Still Life (2018)

Shadow Canto One: Still Life (2018)
Marlene MacCallum.
Handbound artist’s book with slipcase, pamphlet binding with gatefold structure, digital pigment print on Aya. H237 × 175 × 10 mm (closed dimensions). Edition of 15, of which this is #3. Photos: Books On Books Collection.

Opening the book’s gatefold. Photos: Books On Books Collection.

Leafing through the book. Top view of binding and folds. Photos: Books On Books Collection.

According to the artist, Canto One had its dual inception in the death of a cedar waxwing at one of her windows and an image from Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire (1962), a novel consisting of the fictitious poet John Shade’s 999-line poem of the same title: “I was the shadow of the waxwing slain by the false azure in the windowpane…”. While MacCallum’s Canto One appropriates and overwrites Nabokov’s text and, in her images and constructions, alludes to Shade’s imagery of the viewer seeing reflections and doublings of the interior and exterior spaces, the work stands entirely on its own but, in light of what follows, also as the opening movement to what feels like a long poem or symphony.

Shadow Canto Two: Graffiti (2018)

Shadow Canto Two: Graffiti (2018)
Marlene MacCallum
Hand bound artist’s book with slipcase, accordion binding with hard covers, digital pigment print on Aya (bird images) and Niyodo (music images), slipcase constructed of stained Tyvek wrapped around eterno boards, H237 × W160 × D14 mm (closed). Edition of 15, of which this is #3. Photos: Books On Books Collection.

Unfolding side one of Canto Two. Photos: Books On Books Collection.

Canto Two layers images of a dead bird lying on the ground with photos of anonymous graffiti art depicting birds in flight against the concrete walls of an underpass in Rochester, NY. The sense of counterpoint raised by the images carries over to the reverse side of the accordion structure.

Unfolding side two of Canto Two. Photos: Books On Books Collection.

Between a single bird image across the two end panels, MacCallum has overlaid further bird imagery on musical notations from Bach, Mendelssohn and Satie that are merged into composite images across the interior accordion panels. The way the images of birds, ground and wall, and musical notation dance with one another foreshadows another intricate play in Canto Three.

Shadow: Incidental Music (2019)

Shadow: Incidental Music (2019)
Marlene MacCallum.
Hand bound book work with image accordion suspended over text accordion. Images are digital pigment prints on Digital Aya, hand-set letterpress poem and blind embossed soundscape letterpress. Case bound with digital pigment print covers. Dimensions: H237 × W159 × D11 mm (closed), H236 × W30o mm (page spread). Edition of 16, of which this is #3. Photos: Books On Books Collection.

Just as much as do the images, the structure of this work’s binding amazes — repeatedly. The top views show its intricacy but only partially.

Circling around the standing view from left to right, the view of a room unfolds and a dancer’s shadow appears and disappears.

After the standing view concludes and the horizontal view is to be indulged, yet another structural surprise comes from the printed text at the foot of the panels behind the folds and still another surprise at the head of those panels: single lines of embossed text evoking sound. Together, the images on the exterior panels and the printed and embossed texts on the interior appear to be reminders to look not only in the corners but to the floor and ceiling of the room as well.

With MacCallum’s other works (see Further Reading), the Shadow Cantos put her work in the same class as Michael Snow’s Cover to Cover (1975) and Abelardo Morrell’s A Book of Books (2002). If Shadow Cantos is an open series, a fourth volume has high hurdles to clear, which are perhaps raised even higher by the next work.

Shadows Cast and Present (2019)

The artist gratefully acknowledges the Canada Council for the Arts Digital Originals grant program for funding this project and the CBC/Radio Canada for partnering to provide a national platform for this new work.

Given the conceptual and synesthetic play within the three cantos, this digital re-imagination of them follows on with a natural ease. With the assistance of Matthew Hollett and David Morrish, the artist has created an online variation of the long-poem format. Images, text, video and soundscapes come together in an interactive presentation of shadows cast in domestic spaces and by daily activities. Click on the image above or here to view.

Further Reading

Marlene MacCallum“, Books On Books Collection, 2 September 2019.

Levergneux, Louise. “New Year, New Work“, Half-Measure Studio Blog, 5 January 2021.