I didn’t know about book art culture. I’ve seen mobiles, the kind with miniature scenes in paper-covered shoeboxes. And the kind built around a wire hanger. And there are the mammoth sized, ancient religious texts that I’ve seen behind glass at the British Museum and at the Prado Museum in Madrid. I have a hollow book that my father left me. I’ve thought about the cost of book-making from time to time, but not much about book art. I scanned the sites that first populate under a Google search for “book art,” and then dug a little deeper to see what’s going on at museum’s and craft venues.
Here’s Pilar Nadal’s The Tired Press, “a mobile printmaking studio…a bicycle outfitted with a small relief press:”
Nadal focuses on printing postcards, not books. Nonetheless, I think it’s intriguing that an artist can go mobile with her tools and studio. The mobile studio challenges the heavy, factory-laden idea of a conventional printing press. Nadal carries a pannier cabinet in which she keeps her supplies, and she has an open-air gallery to showcase her work. According to http://pyramidatlanticbookartsfair.org/#!prettyPhoto, “anyone who meets the bicycle can print, purchase, write and/or send a postcard.” I wouldn’t want to fawn over the disappearing art of hand-written notes, but it’s hard to resist this quaint press pedaling a quaint form of communication. I notice the postcards in this photo read, “I am,” which speaks to book writing and book making. It’s a way to be here, to process being here, and a way to say, tangibly, I was here. It feels both desperate and commonplace. As commonplace as a bicycle.
I thought I’d explore something more conventionally book art, but stumbled onto another beautiful thing: The Altered Book Book Arts Show at the Marin Museum of Contemporary Art in Novato, California. Books desconstructed, the reconstituted, in other words. Here is a photo of “Pressipice” by Byron B. Kim:
The height of this strikes me because I usually don’t think of books in relations to height. Maybe width, maybe even length. It’s old, and sad, too, which has a similar appeal to Nadal’s “I’m here,” postcards, but in Kim’s work, the sadness is leathery. I see the pages like the Tower of Babel, reaching for a conclusion – an answer – and being bound to an anchor such as the boxy, wood-ish looking piece from whence the pages yearn.
I haven’t found much more about this artist, but this website http://www.sfgate.com/art/article/Altered-Book-Show-set-for-Marin-art-museum-3535127.php reviews the exhibition of reconstituted books. In fact, the idea was “conceived and curated by a retiree who became hooked on transforming discarded books into works of art when she glimpsed the inside of a vintage leather spine.” I’m drawn to the retooling of something as old and as a simple book. It’s like the famous Magritte painting of a pipe whose caption reads, “Ceci n’est pas une pipe.” In our postmodern time, what is a book anyway.