Some people like to write, publish, or read books. Others prefer to dissect, carve, shred, sculpt, and otherwise mutilate books in ways both beautiful and strange.
The ninth annual Art of the Book exhibit, now on view at the Seager Gray Gallery, in Mill Valley, California, presents the work of 25 such book artists, who turn ordinary bound pages into wild sculptures. The gallery has become a library of unreadable books, valuable not for the words within but for their zany physical forms.
Here we have South African artist Barbara Wildenboer, who turns gardening guides such as Herbacious Borders into hairy, leafy pieces resembling the flora they describe. Renee Billinsglea’s clever “Dic-Shoe-Naries” are a pair of men’s loafers carved from a hefty edition of Webster’s, with ’90s-worthy platforms made from pages. There’s also Arian Dylan’s chess set made from paper, and Luciana Frigerio’s books with pages obsessively folded into accordion-like spellings of words like “Dream,” “Read,” and “Inspire,” in perfect Times New Roman and Helvetica.
For his “Kylix Series: Reason S,” artist Doug Beube writes that he approached the book “as if it were a thrilling, previously undiscovered site in an archeological dig. I began changing the book’s structure and abstracting the subject matter of both image and text,” he says. Using various power tools, he ground away parts of the cover and pages of The Dreams of Reason, boring holes that reveal rings of words not unlike the rings of tree trunks from which the paper came.
In an age filled with laments for the death of print, the book arts are flourishing, with more and more art schools offering masters degrees in the field. Even if e-readers do kill of their analog ancestors, obsolete paper volumes could find new life as art objects. Could you turn a Kindle into a sculpture as beautiful as these? Probably not.
“The Art of the Book” is on view at Seager Gray Gallery until June 1, 2014.