Art. Books. Art books. Book art. I have lived most of my adult life near the intersection of these two worlds -- as an artist, diarist, voracious reader, art-gallery/art-book-store director and blogger about art and books. You could say it is my happy place -- and for the last two weeks my proverbial cup runneth over!
Artists, always sensitive to cultural changes on what seems to be a cellular level, have turned to books as medium, just as books are losing their dominance as conveyors of information, while maintaining or perhaps even gaining importance as aesthetic objects. Book Art: Iconic Sculptures and Installations Made from Books, published by Gestalten in 2011, features the work of 46 artists who use books as a medium -- cutting, slicing, carving, gouging, stacking, suspending, rolling and otherwise manipulating these mass-produced works into one-of-a-kind precious objects.
In her introduction to Book Art Christine Antaya states:
"Artists who have opened their eyes to the interplay of structure and format within the book, a feature largely taken for granted until texts became available through different media, have been exploring this using the scalpel and the knife. Sentences are cut and peeled out to create new contexts and more fluid meanings for narratives; words are erased; the shapes of books are returned to the organic matter from which the paper they are printed on first came."
Another happy foray down the art/book rabbit hole is an exhibition I attended last week, "Pages," on view through Jan. 13, 2013, at the Alyce de Roulet Williamson Gallery at Art Center College of Design here in Pasadena. "Pages" displays the work of contemporary artists who use books and pages as mediums, alongside manuscripts, documents, doodles and other forms of written or printed pages from the 15th Century to the 21st.
New York artist Robert Kushner's "Scriptorium: Devout Exercises of the Heart" consists of hundreds of drawings and paintings of foliage and flowers on antique book pages and covers, and is hung salon style with pins on a wall that spans the entire depth of the gallery space. Opposite the wall is a row of six vitrines displaying pages from 15th and 16th Century Herbals, the neat calligraphy and herbal illustrations quietly foreshadowing Kushner's impressive installation.
Three stunning wall pieces by Echiko Ohira made from cardboard, tea-stained paper, glue, and tea-stained sketchbooks provide sophisticated visual counterpoint to objects such as a placemat from a restaurant in Altadena covered with handwritten scientific formulae by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Fineman, and large wall-hung copies of pages from a first edition of Mark Twain's Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County with Twain's handwritten edits and marginalia.
All of which brings us to my third and final harmonious convergence in the art/book matrix. In my last post I wrote about Nobel Prize-winning author Orhan Pamuk's recently released book, The Innocence of Objects, a catalog of his museum that opened last spring in Istanbul -- a museum that Pamuk conceived in tandem with his novel, The Museum of Innocence. I told myself I didn't have time to read a 500-plus page novel, then immediately downloaded and devoured it. It is a mesmerizing tale of lost love and obsession. Having the museum catalog to refer to is icing on this masterful cake.
Cross-posted from Jane Chafin's Offramp Gallery Blog