Book Art

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:”

Tired 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!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 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.


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