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Umbrella Online - Current Issue

umbrella on line

ISSN 0160-0699

Volume 29, No. 3, Sep 2006

Artist Books - Reviews

Most of the books reviewed here are available at Printed Matter, at 195 10th Ave. (between 21st and 22nd St.), New York, NY 10011. www.printedmatter.org

REFERENCE

Il Libro Come Opera d’Arte/The Book as a Work of Art: The Italian Avant-Gardes in the Twentieth Century as Part of the International Panorama by Giorgio Maffei and Maura Picciau (Roma, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, 2006, 35.00 Euros softbound) is a bilingual text (Italian-English) of a catalog representing an exhibition at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Rome. The title of this exhibition comes from “Book as Art” by Germano Celant (1971). Herein, the two curators have limited themselves to the “works which have the form, structure, and matter of books which are made of pages, can be browsed, and are mostly made of paper.”

In this heavily illustrated and documented tome, there are essays by Maffei (The artist’s book. Instructions for use”), Maura Picciau (Between the rooms and the shelves, disturbing objects); Barbara Cinelli (Artists’ books and futurist theatre: Notes for a possible interpretation)” Sara Guindani (The end of the narrative? Words, images, and bodies in artists’ books); Annalisa Rimmaudo (Purchasing and promoting artist’s books in a French public collection: the BibliothPque Kandinsky at the Centre Pompidou).

Starting with Mallarmé, the 20th century goes through all the works of Futurism, Constructivism, Munari, El Lissitzky, Schwitters, Tzara, and on and on in various categories all in beautifully floating bookworks on each page. From Futurism to the Transavantgard, more than 150 bookworks organized by theme indicate a continuity of formal research of the 20th century. The book ends with the international wave of the new generation making bookworks.

Most of the works come from Italian public institutions and from important private Italian and foreign collections. The catalog has 200 pages in color, texts in Italian and English, and a complete photographic documentation of all the books on exhibit. The bibliographical listings are made in chronological order and are highly selective. A wonderful contribution to all contemporary collections. Distributed by Maurizio Corraini, Mantova or d.a.p.

LITTLE BOOKS

Comunicacion Contaminacion by Mark Pawson (London, 1999, $6.00 paper) is the result of a trip to Mexico City where he bought two series of rubberstamps. Using them, each page of this book presents a mini-grid juxtaposing types of communication from telegraphs to smoke signals in green next to types of contamination such as insecticides and aerosol sprays in red. Some of the images are comical, others quite serious and simply drawn to get the message across.

7:00/Prime Time by Stephanie Stump (Philadelphia, 2006, $10.00 paper) has a text cut from the 7:00 p.m.TV listing in the newspaper for one evening in January 2006. Illustrated with half-tone photographs of toy army soldiers and their accompanying weapons, the name of programs in prime-time seem to be perfectly matched, such as “Murder by Numbers” or “Family Feud” indicate the kind of “entertainment” the culture enjoys watching wars, conflicts and battles for pleasure and sport, making us wonder where did that enthusiasm come for conflict-is it really the media? The book was printed offset at the Borowsky Center for Publication Arts I Philadelphia.

Sorry by Cathy Busby (Halifax, St. Mary’s University Art Gallery, 2005, $10.00 paper) is a collection of color tightly cropped digital images, close-ups of forty politicians in the act of uttering public apologies. Digitized, pixelated, and in color, these prints reflect an installation by the artist including 26 prints, or which these 18 are printed for this small catalog. Busby has been interested since 1990 in the public apology, and how emotions are mediated by consumer culture. Busby has been writing about pain and suffering for quite a while, and her installation of all 26 prints (44 x 64” each must have been stunning). This small catalog helps us realize what the original really meant, since we get up close. The artist and Robin Metcalfe write essays about public and private apologies and the pain endured. I find this “little book” a giant of ethical and moral meaning and an important artist book for all collections. Busby should be long noted for her contributions to the When Pain Strikes, an anthology published by the University of Minnesota.

Paper Poems (and disassociated debris) by Rick Myers (Zurich, Nieves, 2006, $8.00 paper) is a small book of visual poems made into paper constructions. The whimsical paper sculptures made concrete the words set down on paper, using paper in the construction. Shadows and lighting help to make “concrete” the visual poetry the artist creates as an homage to paper.

Candy by Derek Stroup (Brooklyn, 2006, $16.00 paper)is a series of digital photographs of candy packaging without any logos, kind of exemplary forms of candy packaging in an accordion-fold series, arranged horizontally. If one knows candy bars in the U.S., one can detect Reese’s Cups or Snicker’s Bars and other recognizable color schemes, where Photoshop alterations have obliterated the definable names and logos. The wraps are clean, yet recognizable, familiar but seemingly strange, so that one bounces from defined brands to design iconic elements. A marvelous conceit!

Removed Exposure by Karen Bernard, Gray Fraser and Alexandra Wixon (New York, Montreal, ProductionGray Editions, New Dance Alliance, 2005, $25.00 signed and numbered) includes six black-and-white photographs are cut down the middle and bound at either end, allowing for strange pairings between the halves of the mysterious cropped portraits. A tiny manila envelope rests in a felt compartment in the back of the book and holds single textual words which serve as clues to the identity of the woman obliquely picturesd in the previous pages. Based on a performance by Karen Bernard which premiered in June 2004 at the New Dance Festival in St. John’s Newfoundland, this limited edition (101 copies) handmade bookwork was also produced by Alexandra Wixon and productiongray.

Johan Svensson Collection (Bandhagen, Sweden, BiondiBooks, 2006, $20.00 paper) is a little collection of paintings by Svensson involving fashion, design, advertising, music, fashion and art (from Madonna to Schubert, Black Sabbath to Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan to Grateful Dead) where the book one-way includes paintings in color, and the book turned upside down has a sequence of black and white paintings. From LP-cover art to CD jewel boxes, these paintings of paintings or covers of covers make an interesting take on the culture of great reproductions by Svensson-who ingests all the images with an emotive take, something personal, something intimate, something genuine. These interpretations of the collection Svensson treasures gives us an inside look on the desires and passions of the collector-not the musicians and not the famous people, but the collector who owns 15,000 vinyl albums and is still looking for more. Two essays by Lennart Persson and Jelena Zetterstrom explain and extract the essence of these wonderful pages.

You have more freedom than you’re using by Dan Attoe (Los Angeles, Peres Projects LA, 2006, $25.00 paper) is a deluxe catalog of a young and talented painter which involve dreams, free association, the inner life, cultural allusions done in a kind of German Romantic milieu, usually in Northwestern U.S. kind of landscapes. The outpouring of words, phrases, “field notes”, humor and “anxious reaction“also accompanies the images. These paintings are small, often resembling pages of a book. An interview with Christopher Cook reveals the artist’s take on his own work and his own life. He is very articulate. In addition, Cathryn Drake writes about Dan Attoe in “American Normal”, citing the fact that Attoe is a reader and thinks about art a great deal. Beautifully designed, this catalog/artist book is a fascinating exploration of a talented painter.

MyWays, edited by Rita McBride & David Gray (Vancouver, Arsenal Pulp Press; New York, Whitney Museum of Art; and New York, Printed Matter, 2006, $14.95 paper) marks the return of installation artist Gina Ashcraft through a compilation of her Agony Aunt monthly advice columns for an art magazine. After dishing out advice-and dirt-for 20 years, Gina’s favorite columns have been anthologized. This is both a how-to and how-not-to guide to art and life.

This is more than a “fiction”, for it exploits and deciphers genre writing with an entertaining and refreshing collective structure. Using the conceit of a crime novel or romantic novel, these anthologies of anonymously written stories come together to challenge the traditional identities of pulp fiction books. The books include contributions from more than 50 artists, architects, writers, journalists, curators, and critics.

If you are an artist of any medium, this should be a wonderful read-and if you want the deluxe signed and numbered edition of the four book titles from the series, ask Printed Matter to send you images of the vacuumed-formed clear plastic container with brass closures that can be opened and resealed. Ed. Of 40 signed and numbered, accompanied by an entomological collectable: a framed scorpion with slight variations.

Vox Populi: Norway by Fiona Tan (London, Book Works, 2006, $28.00 paper) covers the same situation as in Sydney in that she has borrowed images from 100 Norwegians’ family photo albums. Her emphasis in using photography to show identity, history and the potential for self-representation shows also the differences between Sydney and Norway. But there are many similarities, in that she divides the images into Portraits, Home, and Nature. This work was generated from a commission by the Norwegian Parliament in Oslo to create a contemporary portrait of the country which would reflect the lives lived by the people themselves. Of the 1000 images Tan selected and scanned, her final selection consisted of 267 which were individually framed and presented in the Parliament Building.as a permanent installation.

This bookwork is the second phase of the project.

Vox Populi: Sydney by Fiona Tan (Sydney, Book Works in assoc. with Biennale of Sydney, 2006, $28.00 paper) is the result of an invitation to the Sydney Biennale, where Tan decided to do this series called Vox Populi, in which she selected from 90 Sydney residents’ personal photo albums who agreed to participate in this project. She then created a wall installation as well as this volume. She deals with juxtapositions and themes-young men, babies, mothers and children, families, individuals in their Sunday best in the section called Portraits; Home is the next with ceremonies, rituals, casual photos, sleeping people, dogs, celebrations; then Nature which involves seascapes, shots of the Harbor Bridge, lots of ocean shots, rock formations, desert views, and sunsets.

Tan’s interest in the human subject (even sometimes herself) allows her to work across media from photography to text-based documentation. This new series, Vox Populi, emphasizes community and place, but also the differences. And Tan’s confidence in the photographic image as an archival object to cherish, treasure and use to signify the continuity of communities.

NIEVES ZINE SERIES

Emerald by Yoshimi (Zurich, Nieves, 2006, $7.00 paper) is a collection of drawings of pandas, moose, giraffes and timber wolves, rendered in silhouettes and outlines which creates a sketchbook menagerie.

The Vorpal Blade by Fergus Purcell (Zurich, Nieves, 2006, $7.00) is a wild collection of bodacious babes, shag-haired rockers, and logos inspired by the kinds often seen at Ozzie’s Ozfest. Seems like a group of bikers, punkers and musicians.

GENERAL

The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Art by Robin Kahn (New York, NY, Mis Dias Press, 2006, $16.95 hardcover) has as its source an altered book which was published originally in 1959 by the General Federation of Women’s Clubs that was intended to “point out the basic things one should look for in order to appraise intelligently and fully appreciate whatever paintings one may see.” In Kahn’s inimitable style, she reworks this essay-written by a male critic-with drawings, cut-outs, and texts in a style that embodies th rebellious spirit of riot-girl punk aesthetics. With the standard illustrations, she adds pizazz with buttons and bows, small phrases, collaged heads and doodled flowers, for instance. This literal overwriting takes on the male-dominated tradition of art history and pastes in alternative recommendations over the previous artists’ biographies with suggestions at the end for great women such as dadaist: Meret Oppenheim or Boot-ician: Eleanor Antin, or even Screamer: Yoko Ono. How much easier it is with digital technology than the old days when artists had to do cut and paste and rephotograph pages and so many other problems. Kahn has the alteration down pat and makes us smile, laugh and cavort. This should be the gift of the season!

I heart darkness by Natascha Sofia Snellman (Los Angeles, 2nd Cannons Publications, 2006, $24.00 paper) is the result of interviews conducted during Fall and Winter 2004, a particularly gothic-imbued period of contemporary art. Snellman seeks out artists whose work relates to concepts of darkness and the uncanny. Each interview contains similar questions, where the interviewer probes influences in music, books, and memories to unearth what has influenced the artist. The interviews are not long, but on target.

The introduction of the book contains colored collages by Snellman and the book closes with reproductions of the artwork in color by the interviewees. Included are Nina Bovasso, Brenden Clenaghen, Ami Tallman, Jamie Isenstein, Sue de Beer, Sterling Ruby, Kevin Christy, Gus Van Sant, Jess, Brian Kennon, Jeanine Jablonski, Ashley Macomber, Alex Hubbard, and Storm Tharp.

Tokyo and my Daughter by Takashi Homma (Zurich, Nieves, 2006, $20.00 softcover) is a marvelous collection of photographs not only of the daughter but also the city of Tokyo-a rhapsody of geometric and sweeping double-page cityscapes, as well as the intimacy of the young daughter taking a picture with her camera, and a picture of her sitting at a picnic table, a loving portrait of her against the snow, and so much more. A beautiful album of love of a city and a daughter.

Wonderfoolworld by David Sandlin (Kilkenny, Ireland, Butler Gallery, 2006, $25.00 softbound) is a graphic demonstration of the strong visual vocabulary that David Sandlin, born in Ireland, but resident of New York since 1980. He is an “urban” storyteller, using words and pictures in his imagery with distinctly American allusions. His wife, Joni, and his son, Jake, are featured prominently in all of his work. Since the death of his father, his thought processes have led to politics, social policy, allegories, good and evil, the family, war, peace, death and allegories and parables close to those themes and many more. Sandlin has a rich vocabulary, but there are influences of Crumb, his favorite artist H.D. Westermann, and ecclesiastical iconography. Although there is narrative, Sandlin does not consider himself a storyteller. The mingling of the real and the fantastic, the beautiful and the horrible seem natural to Sandlin. Yet his imagery is cinematic and his grasp on relating to his viewers is palpable. His return to Ireland and the Butler Gallery must have been triumphant. He has much to relate and does it so very well with his graphic paintings. Includes essays by John Carlin, Carlo McCormick, Dun Nadel. The interviews with him reveal his long involvement with artist books. Irish printing is stunning.

Aurora A-Z by Jim Johnson (Denver, Discopie Corporation, 2005, $21.99 softbound) is based on a rubber stamp alphabet. Each letter is outlined with a graceful movement. The number of pages is determined by the number of letters as they appear in alphabetical order. So there is one A, two Bs, etc. But an added bonus is that the “reader” flips the pages, it makes for an interesting perceptual combination of reading and scanning, a kind of dance which is elicited by the very graceful letters of this type font.

Coevolution by Jochen Lempert (Koln, Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther Konig/Museum fur Gegenwartskunst Siegen, 2006, $35.00 paper) is the exhibition catalog of a mid-career retrospective of the artist, who with his camera and in his tableaux and wall installations, shows the viewer not only what he sees but gives us photographic perspectives on the world with a particular interest in animals-their behavior, movements, forms, and habitats. His photos are extemporaneous, they are shown unframed so that the intimacy of the view is not lost on the viewer, showing us both the phenomena of nature as well as its poetry. Flocks of birds, swarms of ants, sheep in a field, groups of swans on water are all fodder for his lens. Looking and discovering are the delights for the viewer, the unspecialized viewer. A scientist might get more out of the images, but we the viewers enjoy the sweep of the skies, the expanse of the landscape and the fun with the animals, birds, and insects. This is a “picture book” with information about the artist and the colophon additional information, save for the essay by Eva Schmidt. Large format softbound album.

DRAWING

Blrauaghphk by Brian Monroe (Berkeley, 2006, $30.00 softcover) is a beautifully designed bookwork with drawings by the artist of fantasy, monsters, fantastic growing plants, the marvelous treatment of water with these fantastic beings, the transformation of humans into trees, turnip heads, the transformation of hands into liquid forms, and then “the rain stopped” and nature and man coalesce into emotional reactions-perhaps this is a dream sequence or the kind of “doodling” that only an artist can execute. A lovely book with flexible binding and handsewn binding.

Mexican Love Story by Holly Stevenson (Zurich, Nieves, 2006, $14.00 softcover) is published on the occasion of the exhibition “Haunted Hallway” at Riviera Gallery in Brooklyn during the summer of 2006. Using double spreads, there are stunning drawings of an owl, perhaps water, a scientific experiment, using different colored papers and a style of drawing that uses short lines creating imagery by the placement. The lettering is geometric and structural. A smart bookwork!

The Themes of the Day by Kevin Hooyman (Brooklyn, 2006, $10.00 paper) starts with a bearded mountain man awakened by his cat. He rises to greet the day by making a list of themes for mediation, from The Amazing Solution to ZZ Top, to be considered in a textual and graphic stream of consciousness. In the serpentine unfolding of pages, a metaphysical atmosphere evolves with a mystical cast of characters. Every inch of space is densely covered with lines that swoop over the page. Thought bubbles snake from personified animals, spouting philosophical queries and statements like “If liberty means anything at all, means the freedom to tell people what they don’t want to hear.” There are allusions to Barbara Walters, Desperate Housewives, GW Bush, Iraq, Monday Night Football all energized by dynamic lines throughout every inch of the pages. Layering th foreground and background elements draw the viewer into a deliberation of cultural, political and social forces as they play out in America. A true contemporary must!

VISUAL POETRY

Live Matter is a project created by Reed Altemus of Portland, ME in which artists submit series of 6 - 10 black and white or color camera-ready master copies, a title for the series, then signing and numbering an edition of 100 printed on archival paper in portfolio. Published by Tonerworks, Portland, ME, the following titles are available for $8.00 each.

Bab(b)el by Reid Wood includes 7 color prints of letters superimposed upon letters and stamps.

Haute Couture/Death Texts by Jim Leftwich includes 8 full-color prints with the figure of a woman over texts.

Mappaemundi by Carole Stetser includes 7 prints in black and white with tribal, linguistic and aboriginal images over maps and dictionary pages.

Sphere by Andrew Topel includes 6 prints in black and white with linguistic ribbons that speak of circus, calligraphy,compass circles and much more. Order from Reed Altemus, P.O. Box 52, Portland, ME 04112-0052 or by e-mail: raltemus@gwi.net

PERIODICALS

Stella #5 by Nicole Bachmann (Zurich, Nieves Books, 2006, $20.00 boxed, softbound, with DVD) is a deluxe zine in a numbered edition of 200 featuring spreads on photography, drawing and fashion, along with a handful of texts in German. Included is a DVD with video works by five artists, with a twinge of surrealist fountain animation as well as a looped car crash piece-and much more.

Contributors: Itzel Garcia, Flurina Rothenberger, Véronique Hoegger, Signup, Karolina Danków, Jason Klimatsas, Barbara Herzog, Benjamin Sommerhalder, Angie Reed, Johannes Binotto, Mirja Lanz, Michael Hiltbrunner, Susanne von Ledebur, Flavia Horat DVD artists: Giorgio Ronna, Nicole Bachmann, Chloe Feinberg, Patricia Bucher, Elodie Pong.

Guestroom, no. 5 (Cosmic Transformer) by Ruth Höflich, Maria Benjamin, and Miriam Schiran, editors (Munich, Germany, Ruth Höflich, 2006, $25.00 softbound with DVD). Published by artist-run space in London with the same name, this periodical gathers together texts, images, and works of rthe pag under a loosely organizing theme in the same spirit as a group exhibition. This issue, dubbed “Cosmic Transformer,” contains texts that refrence spaces associated with personal or mental reshaping like cinemas, libraries, and airports. The images impart a sense of metamorphosis between human and animal states. A silk-screened poster insert is included, as well as a related DVD compendium.

Compendium: Charles Bainbridge, Maria Benjamin, Pablo Bronstein and Elliot Dodd, Raul Ferrera-Balanquet, Ruth Höflich, Claire Hooper, Rowena Hughes, Nick Laessing, Nathan Parker, Anj Smith, Marina Vishmidt, Isabel Waidner, Mark Aerial Waller.

Hunger (no. 1, April 2006) is a limited edition “zine” created by a group of 6 artists-the first issue of which was in full color and black and white comic narratives as well as whimsy and fantasy.

No. 2 (July 2006) is dedicated to Memory with games, comics, and the same creative juices that distinguish this zine for any contemporary collection. A button saying “I’m Hungry” is pinned to the cover: www.hungryzine.com.au