untitled (george jackson/miguel hernandez) (1996-2011)
Books, photos, stone; two 14-foot stacks of books. Installation view from yawar malku (royalty, abduction & exile) at La Conservera – Centro de Arte Contemporáneo, Ceutí (Murcia), Spain, 2011; Artwork © William Cordova, courtesy of Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York.
Here is a large-scale book installation that sharply challenges those who, objecting to books’ repurposing for art, would cite Milton: “he who destroys a good book kills reason itself”. Each 14-foot stack consists of a single title; one of Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson and the other of The Prison Poems by Miguel Hernández. For each column, Cordova has hollowed out a number of books to cover wooden shelves affixed to the wall and tightly fitted other books between the shelves to create the appearance of an uninterrupted stack of books. In making the bookshelf tower vertically and making the books as unreadable as bricks, he memorializes the two men and thoughts they expressed.
Acknowledging the influence of the shape of the Great Mosque of Córdoba and also Inca architecture in Peru where he grew up, Cordova elaborates in an interview with Lori Salmon in the exhibition catalogue:
Pillars/foundations are often designed to resist lateral forces. Columns also transmit any weight above and redistribute down below through compression. The content within the said titles inform the context of these pillars, antennas, and ephemeral monuments.
While the lives of Jackson and Hernández played out in different countries, their deaths in prison, the former’s letters and the latter’s laments drive side by side through the “pillars, antennas and ephemeral monuments”. In the context of mid-2020 protests against systemic racism and fascism, they could just as well be a pair of fuses.
“Large-Scale Installations (Updated)”, Bookmarking Book Art, 9 September 2019.
“Meet William Cordova — Cultural Practitioner, Mentor”, Picture This Post, 16 January 2020. Accessed 19 July 2020.
“William Cordova”, Arndt Gallery, Berlin. Accessed 19 July 2020.
“William Cordova”, Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York. Accessed 17 July 2020.