Beyond Text and Image: the Book as Art

 

Exhibit in Staniar Gallery, Washington and Lee University

February 25 - April 8, 2010

Curated by Yolanda Merrill, Humanities Librarian, Leyburn Library,

Washington and Lee University

 

 

Ann Kalmbach, and Tatana Kellner. Pistol, Pistil: Botanical Ballistics. Women’s Studio Workshop, 1997.

This accordion fold book examines the use of ordinary words in both botanical and military context. These definitions are juxtaposed with stories and statistics relating to farming and violence. Silkscreen, with binding of wooden covers with leather straps held by bullet casings. The structure is called a flutter book. Edition of 100.

Special Collections and Archives, Cabell Library, Virginia Commonwealth University

 

 

Carer Barer. Wave and Fog, 2006. Archival pigment print on Crane rag paper.

Texas artist Cara Barer’s photographs consist almost exclusively of the edges of pages, fantastic arabesques of white or color against a studio portrait-like black background. Pages crinkle, curl and twirl, spines do backbends, the pages of two different volumes touch like delicate tentacles reaching out in a mating dance. In each work, it is the flexibility of paper itself, stiff, soft, and strong, that we notice. “I don’t consider myself a photographer—rather an artist that uses photography.” Sculpture is a major part of her process. Before photographing a book, she may, for example, soak it for hours, then position the pages, curl them over hair rollers, even fix them with Velcro. This process influences her choice of books: “Because of the fact that I must begin thinking about handling the book as sculpture first, I am very attracted to its physical properties—the size, the quality of the paper, whether or not it has only text—is there any color?” Barer is a graduate of the Glassell School of Art and of the Art Institute of Houston.

   

Maureen Cummins. Ghost Diary, 2003.

 

Based on a previously unpublished letters written by Robert Rhea (who was married into the Rutgers family of then called New Ark) a former Revolutionary War officer under Washington to his children, this memoir is a strange and haunting juxtaposition of love and death – bloody wartime events, the burning of Indian villages, battles with the British, and putting down of rebel insurgencies alternate with Robert Rhea’s recounting of his courtship of his wife, their wartime engagement and marriage. Ghost Diary impresses upon the reader both the immediacy of the past, and the close and often random relationship between life and death. Created with vintage glass negatives, glass, and transparencies. Published in an edition of 25.

Special Collections and Archives, Cabell Library, Virginia Commonwealth University.


 

Jim Rosenau. Frying Pan Shelf. This Into That, 2010.

This piece is part of Rosenau’s “Shelves” collection. The artist carefully selects discarded books of similar topical interest, and combines these with “tools of the trade”, in this case a frying pan and a spatula.  The result is a humorous, functional artwork, which consists entirely of used materials. Edition of 1.

 

   

Laura Russell. Casa Milà. Simply Books, 2006.

This book structure is a flag book, named and invented by book artist Hedi Kyle. It contains a poem and eight original photographs. The photographs feature famed Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi’s “Sentinels” atop his Casa Milà apartment building in Barcelona. These sentinels are rooftop chimney stacks, vent caps and stairway entrances disguised with huge, fantastical sculptures. "... I like to think that as you open the book the sentinels dance across the sky just as they do in my dreams of Barcelona." Edition of 25.

Leyburn Library Collection, Washington and Lee University.

 

   

Cara Barer. Indigo, 2007. Archival pigment print on Crane rag paper.

Texas artist Cara Barer’s photographs consist almost exclusively of the edges of pages, fantastic arabesques of white or color against a studio portrait-like black background. Pages crinkle, curl and twirl, spines do backbends, the pages of two different volumes touch like delicate tentacles reaching out in a mating dance. In each work, it is the flexibility of paper itself, stiff, soft, and strong, that we notice. “I don’t consider myself a photographer—rather an artist that uses photography.” Sculpture is a major part of her process. Before photographing a book, she may, for example, soak it for hours, then position the pages, curl them over hair rollers, even fix them with Velcro. This process influences her choice of books: “Because of the fact that I must begin thinking about handling the book as sculpture first, I am very attracted to its physical properties—the size, the quality of the paper, whether or not it has only text—is there any color?” Barer is a graduate of the Glassell School of Art and of the Art Institute of Houston.

 

 

Cara Barer. Butterfly 2, 2007. Archival pigment print on Crane rag paper.

 

 

   

Cara Barer. Who's Who, 2004. Archival pigment print on Crane rag paper.

   

Linda K. Johnson. Twenty-Six Letters: Selected Letters of Lewis Carroll. A2Z Press, 1998.


Twenty-Six Letters is a selection of letters written by Lewis Carroll to his child friends. Inspired by his ability to play with words, the title and form of this artist book is itself a play on words. It uses both definitions of the word “letters”—those of the alphabet and letters between friends. The 26 pages of the book are envelopes, one for each letter of the alphabet, and each contains a letter to a friend. The book is case bound using a piano hinge bind and comes in a box complete with a door and church key. Illustrations by Yvonne Van Rietschoten. Edition of 10.

 

Special Collectionsand Archives, Cabell Library, Virginia Commonwealth University.

 

 

   

Amy Chan. Woodland Theater 1, 2006.

The structure is a tunnel book. Pages of a tunnel book have cut-outs that allow the reader to look through the holes to the subsequent pages all the way to the back of the book. It is bound with two concertina spines placed on opposite sides of the book. Pages are attached to both concertinas. It stores flat and pulls out for viewing. Chan painted the scene and made the structure. Edition of 1.

 

Special Collections and Archives, Cabell Library, Virginia Commonwealth University.

   

Scott McCarney. Memory Loss. Visual Studies Workshop Press, 1988.

Memory Loss was inspired by a traumatic brain injury suffered by the artist’s brother in 1986. The accordion structure combines fractured images and texts drawn from medical literature about head injury with personal photographs and correspondence.

Special Collections and Archives, Cabell Library, Virginia Commonwealth University.

 

   

Larry Stene. You Can’t Judge a Book by Its Cover, 2010.

Invited by the curator of this show, Stene created this large sculpture out of discarded books. Inspired by a 1902 article in the New York Times called “Books that Die”, Stene’s piece invites viewers to ponder the life and death of books. Faculty and art students familiar with his work will not be surprised in looking at his sculpture You Can’t Judge a Book by Its Cover. “Hopefully all viewers will be amused , curious, and pleasantly puzzled. What begins as an artistic encounter with the non-traditional medium of dead books digresses or rises to the occasion of presenting visual life observations about books, authors, and the rest of us. The stages or struggles of life for books and human folk range from riding high with our talents and egos, on loan from God, to the separation of salvageable parts and ending with only shredded traces. As a society we treat and house books better than most of the world’s people. When all the books and human folk become digital files  consisting of or identified with binary numbers, will we hit the delete all button without emotion? You do the math.”

At the artist's request, this piece was disassembled after the exhibit closed.

   

Molly Springfield. The Future of Art, 2007. Graphite on paper.

Molly Springfield combines a labor-intensive drawing practice with an investigation of problems such as reproduction versus originality, seeing versus reading, and technology versus labor. The source materials of her drawings and installations are texts, particularly those that reveal visionary moments in the history of how people experience, organize, and reproduce information. Springfield was born in 1977, received an MFA from UC-Berkeley in 2004, and was a participant at Skowhegan in 2006. Her work has been the subject of solo shows in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, group shows in museums and galleries across the U.S. and Europe, and reviews in Artforum, Art Papers, The Village Voice, The New Yorker, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Chicago Tribune. She lives and works in Washington, DC.  

 

Emily Martin. More Slices of Pie. Naughty Dog Press, 2008.

Wedge books contain author's musings about pie and 7 include pie recipes. They are named First bite, last crumb --The eating crow pie -- Grandma's pie crust -- Me, Martha & pie in the city -- Todd's special pie -- Not flan pumpkin pie -- Heaven on earth pie -- Camp Van Vac pie. Inkjet printed, and trimmed with wavy scissors. Typefaces used are Century Gothic and Copperplate Gothic Bold. Wedges laid into aluminum pie pan, which is housed in clear plastic pie container with snap-on lid. Edition of 25.

Special Collections and Archives, Cabell Library, Virginia Commonwealth University.


   

Scott McCarney. Mobile, 1985.

Yellow and white duplex paper folded accordion-style which is sewn with red and blue nylon cord and attached to boards. The mobile folds up into a portable book. It extends to more than 8 feet when hung. Edition of 200.

Special Collections and Archives, Cabell Library, Virginia Commonwealth University.

   

Carol Barton. The Lookout. Popular Kinetics Press, 2003.

Open this beautifully cased midnight-blue folio and you will find a poem describing a lookout tower within an illustration of the Italian countryside. Turn the page, and a pop-up tower magically springs up, lighting as the page is turned. In the dark, the tower glows and delicately-cut windows and turrets are outlined by the light inside. The Lookout is an excerpt from the collector’s edition, Five Luminous Towers (A Book to be Read in the Dark) and comes with a complete set of poems by Barton. Laser-cutting allows for intricate architectural detailing in the pop-up tower. Offset printed in an edition of 350.

Special Collections and Archives, Cabell Library, Virginia Commonwealth University.

 

   

Linda K. Johnson. On The Line, 1997.

On the Line is an artist book that utilizes a non-traditional format designed to reflect the content of the book. It is a collection of entertaining and somewhat obscure facts about artists and designers. The little known facts are silkscreen printed on individual cotton muslin panels. They are housed in a box that comes complete with a five foot clothesline and twelve miniature clothespins. The book is designed to encourage the reader/viewer to interact with the piece by symbolically hanging out the dirty linen, thus the name On the Line. To collect the facts, letters were sent to artist, designers and art historians asking for interesting tidbits about well known artists or designers. Twelve of the facts submitted became the content for this artist book. Edition of 125.

Special Collections and Archives, Cabell Library, Virginia Commonwealth University


 

Jim Rosenau. Reading Chair. This Into That, 2008.

 

Unlike most of Rosenau’s furniture, the book titles in this chair are of no importance. Made from a set of tiny Funk & Wagnall's encyclopedias, pencils, and salvaged wood.

Leyburn Library Collection, Washington & Lee University.

 

   

Jacqueline Rush Lee. Flutter (Devotion Series), 2008.

Lee’s works in the Devotion Series works are based on medieval devotional books with a pondering of what contemporary devotional books might look like or allude to metaphorically. Books are painstakingly hand-painted with inks, page by page, and the forms are manipulated in order to transform the form and content of the final work. Lee says, “I am interested in the challenge of utilizing only the pure components of a book such as its pages, covers, inks, book marks, book head bands and creating minimalist forms with substance. I like to think of these sculptures as ‘having been engulfed by the inks from their inner texts.’ ”

 

   

Linda K. Johnson. An Old Lady who Swallowed a Worm and a Few Other Critters, 2000.

An Old Lady, a Worm and a Few Other Critters, is an old folk rhyme that has been rewritten with a South Florida twist. All of the plants and animals depicted in this humorous book are indigenous to the Florida Everglades. The original illustrations were linoleum cuts and eraser stamps scanned into the computer, digitally enhance and output to an ink jet printer. The structure of the book is a tunnel book with the center of each page cut out. The pages are attached at the sides with accordion panels that contain the text of the rhyme. The entire book extends like an accordion so the viewer can look from one page to the next through the center holes, viewing all 8 pages simultaneously. The tunnel book structure emphasizes the landscape theme of the illustrated pages. Edition of 50.

  

Special Collections and Archives, Cabell Library, Virginia Commonwealth University.

 

   

Denise Low.  Quilting: Six PoemsHoliseventh Press, 1984.

Quilting: Six Poems consists of six handmade sheets of paper with poems by Kansas poet Denise Low, and letterpress and prints by Linda Samson-Talleur. Talleur received a Kansas Arts Commission Grant for the making of this book.

Private collection.

 

 

Julie Chen. Leavings. Flying Fish Press, 1997.

 

Leavings is an intimate examination of life and loss in the form of a double-sided concertina book with pockets, removable tags, and many collage elements. The detritus of everyday life is lifted into the realm of new meaning by text and image elements which are continually being revealed in different combinations as the reader travels through the book. Letterpress printed in an edition of 100 copies. Presented in a cloth-covered box.

Special Collections and Archives, Cabell Library, Virginia Commonwealth University.

   

Jacqueline Rush Lee. The Book of R’s  (Volumes 2001-2003 Series), 2003.

In the Book of R’s, Lee uses water to transform books so that the dyes in the fore-edges bleed and the pages warp into beautiful, curled striations. The books are then dried thoroughly and wound around themselves in continuous layers and matched edge to edge to create geometric structures that allude to natural, organic forms. The art work is made completely out of books, and “sealed” with the covers placed around them. “I like the graphic quality of the red jacket and knew that the mystery R would add a playful narrative to the piece. For me it’s a pun on the Book of Hours and my own initials, but like all of my works, it is not meant to be didactic but evocative.”

 

   

Keith Smith. Book 91. Space Heater Multiples, 1982.

 

Book 91 is considered one of the seminal works in the artist's book movement. Smith created this book, also known as "The String Book", in 1982. The covers of the book have a string pattern, hinting at what's to be found inside. Upon opening the book, we find a cut page that reveals glimpses of the title page beneath it--one that is barely legible: the words are blind embossed on the page, listing simply the title, the artist, and the publisher. The fact that the text is not inked seems to emphasize just how unimportant text is in this book. In fact, that's all the text we get. From here on out, the book is about light and shadow and the ever-changing compositions that appear on the surface of the pages. Multiple continuous lengths of string weave through the first half of the book through complex patterns of holes and knots, each page responding to the tensions created by the page before and the page that follows. "Book 91 is a sequence of certain feelings and psychological experiences which I am not capable of placing in words; that is why I made the book… I am equally concerned with the book-as-experience. Here, the physical is used as transition… The sound, cast light and shadows and their focus and movement, are not part of the physical book. They are physical, but they only come into existence during the act of experiencing the book, that is, turning the page.”  Edition of 50.

Special Collections and Archives, Cabell Library, Virginia Commonwealth University.

 

   

Julie Chen and Barbara Tetenbaum. Ode to a Grand Staircase (For Four Hands). Flying Fish Press, 2001.

 

Ode to a Grand Staircase is the product of a long-distance duet performed by book artists Julie Chen and Barbara Tetenbaum. The text of composer Erik Satie’s “March of the Grand Staircase” accompanies vibrant and playful letterpress graphics on each page. When opened for display, the french door format reveals myriad layers of pages and shaped windows creating a stunning three-dimensional sculptural space. Produced in an edition of 100 copies and enclosed in a modified drop spine box with magnetic closure. The box also houses the title page and whimsical notes on the life and work of Erik Satie.

Special Collections and Archives, Cabell Library, Virginia Commonwealth University.

 

 

Tatana Kellner. Fifty Years of Silence: Eva's Story.  1992.

 

These two volumes preserve my parents' memories of internment in several concentration and extermination camps during World War II. The work in this show is volume 2, which focuses on Kellner’s mother’s experiences. Handwritten Czech text, transcribed into English is printed over contemporary and historical photographic images from the concentration camps. The hand written manuscript is printed on translucent pages. Family photographs provide a poignant contrast to these horrific accounts. Die cut pages fall around a flesh colored, handmade paper cast of each parent's forearm, tattooed with its ineradicable number. Silkscreen and cast handmade paper.

Special Collections and Archives, Cabell Library, Virginia Commonwealth University.