Seager Gray Gallery presents The Art of the Book, 2018. This signature show for the gallery is in its 13th year and includes 42 works by 22 artists. The exhibition runs from May 2 to June 1, 2018. There is a reception for the artists on Saturday, May 12 from 5:30 to 7:30. A full color catalog accompanies the exhibition and the artists include Robert Adams, Rhiannon Alpers, Tor Archer, Doug Beube, Renee Bott, Valérie Buess, Sara Burgess, Macy Chadwick, Brian Dettmer, Casey Gardner, Jaz Graf, Andrew Hayes, Charles Hobson, Rodger Jacobsen, Lisa Kokin, Linda Mueller, Emily Payne, Brian Singer, Dolph Smith, Tamar Stone, Barbara Wildenboer and Audrey Wilson.
Known for their focus on artist books and book-related material, this year’s show offers some exquisite surprises. These include Durer’s Deer by artist Renee Bott. Bott mounts the pages of A Hunchback of Notre Dame on linen over panel. Carefully painting out some of the text and revealing other sections, she renders the image of a stag over the pages. Based on an etching by 17th century artist Wenceslaus Hollar, the stag is a mirror image of one done previously by Albrecht Durer contrasting a classic story of human suffering with the majesty of nature.
Two amazing book works in textile by artist Tamar Stone break the conventional codex by presenting works that require in one, unmaking and remaking a bed in But Didn’t Sleep Much and unfastening and refastening a corset in The Effect of the Whole. On the coverlet, blanket, pillows, sheets and mattress of the small bed in But Didn’t Sleep Much, are quotes and stories from memoirs of eight brave women, traveling on their own and taking a stand. Both books are in fabric with the stories and texts rendered in thread.
Artist Linda Mueller creates altered book works using art books with their beautiful color plates. In the past, she has done Velázquez, Holbein and Durer. This work uses art books about the artist Gustav Klimt, particularly centering on the famous golden portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, the woman in gold. What is extraordinary in the works is Mueller’s painting in the replication of the central figure and how well she is able to resolve the various pages of the book in a background structure while capturing the skills of the artist in actual paint.
Not surprisingly, two of the artists have focused their concerns on current events, most notably gun control. Assassinations, a poignant series by Brian Singer, uses the pages of books about famous leader who have been murdered - Martin Luther King, Jr., John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Malcolm X, Mahatma Gandhi, John Lennon, Abraham Lincoln and Harvey Milk. Turning the pages sideways he creates a rendering of the exact weapon with which they were killed. The series as a whole was so powerful that we felt that showing just one of them would not be as impactful, so we are including all of the available works together as a group. Glass artist Audrey Welch’ powerful work, Shooting Range, centers on the Columbine shooting. The book mounted in the piece is a school yearbook with photos of slain students crossed out and a map of the school. A neon gun is mounted on the work along with 13 bullets commemorating the 13 students lost.
Handmade artists books include Charles Hobson’s Flight, with 5 tales of the urge to fly from Daedalus to Lilienthal. Each tale starts with a narrative of the attempt at flight followed by an image of the sky to which a paper airplane has been attached. The double-sided accordion book is rich with Hobson’s beautiful acrylic washes. On the reverse of the accordion are the birds that captivated each of his subjects. Birds also figure in Rhiannon Alpers’ A Thousand Starlings. explores an imagined journey, being carried through the comfort of one’s dreams. The journey is guided by a murmuration of a thousand starlings, undulating and wisping through the evening sky, their soft voices calming and cooing as they head into the unknown.
Clay is the medium for a work called Inheritance by Jaz Graf. Pages of books in white porcelain mounted on steel have been letter-pressed with the French phrase, “nous sommes simplement de passage” - (we are only here for a moment’s time.) The 18 pages of the installation are suspended from the wall on metal brackets of varying widths, the effect a reminder of the brevity of life.
Books are content, form and structure – self-contained units of expressions that instruct, communicate, enlighten and entertain. In both material and content, they remain a rich source of inspiration for artists everywhere.