In an era where our relationship with books seems to be drifting away, where most of reading has become mechanistic and a means of acquiring information and conditioned by the quickness of the ever-changing technology, the Art of the Artist Book takes us on an other-worldly journey to a place where the book is treated as a precious and aesthetic focal point for sharing intimate feelings, inspiration, dreams, social commentary and memory.
The artwork in this exhibit is excitingly diverse in terms of medium, scale and theme. As you enter the gallery, the sculptural beauty of Jill Sylvia’s “Yellowbook” draws your attention through her painstakingly detailed hand-cut ledger paper as an exquisite portrayal of how much time is lost in the drudgery of our daily routine. As you turn the corner, you see Lynne Avadenka’s “Futile Beauty”, an accordion book in powdered graphite and pencil, translating a passage from the Book of Ecclesiastes in a mystical rendering of symbol and vaporous form. Under glass is Donald Lipski’s, “Book of Knowledge”, a sculpture of a thick wedge of glass strapped in a leather bound book, obscuring our view of the book’s contents, magnifying the secretive and mystic nature of true knowledge.
Much of the exhibition space is overtaken by a large installation by Iain Baxter, “Bookworks: Farenheit 450 (Homage to Bradbury & Orwell)”, of an infinity configuration comprised of over one hundred shoes each supporting a book on various themes, indicating that “bookworks will expand forever.” Nearby are two installations that create more intimate spaces, inviting participation from the viewer. Dennis Michael Jones’ “Sometimes I wonder what you’d say if I let you speak” and Chido Johnson’s “Let’s talk about love baby” create a comfortable environment for reading in order to experience the artists’ offerings on ephemeral thoughts and romance.
Sabrina Nelson’s “Small Yellow Book” shares tender feelings for her mother, who battled cancer in 2007. Nelson incorporates a lock of her mother’s lost hair shed from the harshness of chemotherapy, in a book with color, texture and image and no words, as “the story is still being written.” Enrique Chayoga’s “Modern Codex Books” also gives a personal account of loss as he rewrites the discarded and untold history of the conquered - “history is told by those who win wars.” Chayoga invents his own account of possible stories of the Mexican and Mexican American experience “by mixing pre-Columbian mythology with Catholic icons, American comics and images of ethnic stereotypes” using the same bark paper (amate) of ancient codex books.
Michael E. Smith expresses feelings of alienation and anonymity in “Untitled Telephone book”, a “bloated, grotesque” sculpture created by drowning pages with lists of names, people and places in a tray of water. Ronald Allen Leax’s “Ontological Fragment (Tsunami)” explores the impermanent and temporal nature of the material world, with his crystallized book sculpture.
The Art of the Artist’s Book, curated by Dick Goody, is presented as a fluid, intimate pathway into the mind and hearts of each of the 25 represented artists, where the sacredness of linguistic and visual expression coalesce in inventive ways, where secrets, passions, pain and memory are shared and revealed in the intimate world of books.