Monday, November 12, 2012



Dissections and Excavations in Book Art


May 23 – July 6, 2013

Rebound: Dissections and Excavations in Book Art brings together the work of five mixed media artists from around the world who sculpt, scrape, bend and carve to create astonishing compositions using books as a point of departure. Curated by Karen Ann Myers, Assistant Director of the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, this exhibition features works by Brian Dettmer (Atlanta), Long-Bin Chen (Taiwanese, now living in New York), Guy Laramee (Montreal), Francesa Pastine (San Francisco), and Doug Beube (New York). Each of these artists transforms various types of literature and/or printed “books” through sculptural intervention. Despite the individualistic and exclusive perspective of each artist, they have remarkable connections in the themes and ideas they respectively mourn and celebrate.
For generations, our society has been lamenting the loss of natural beauty and the earth’s resources to the rising tide of industrial and technological “progress” towards greater efficiency and luxury. With this progression of technology, the relevance of physical books in our culture is diminishing. The tangible, permanent information presented in books is quickly being replaced with digital media and the Internet, which exemplify fluidity and constant change. Books as a vessel for accessible and easily communicated knowledge have become somewhat antiquated. In our ever-evolving digital present, we see a variety of once cherished technologies losing their importance and luster at an increasingly rapid rate.
From the confusion and sense of loss that emerge out of this condition, these artists have created their own responses. Some, like Laramee and Chen, directly address the parallel between the disappearance of natural spaces and books as an outdated mode of expression; carving landscapes from the pages and bindings. Deep crevasses, hidden caves, and awe-inspiring phenomena and landscapes emerge from chiseled pages. Alternately, some artists, like Pastine and Dettmer, seek to bring the books into the future, by digitizing or technologizing them. Here, images are created that are reminiscent of topographical or weather maps, readings from seismographs, or cross-sections of the “bodies” of the books. These works are treated as surgeries or dissections, as scalpels and needles are used to carve away the books’ exteriors.
Brian Dettmer’s precise excavation of books page by page focuses on taking something that already exists and exposing alternate histories and memories, which reveal new relationships. Long-Bin Chen combines the cultures of the East and West through the mixture of sculpture and literature. Through this, we are prompted to examine the eternal vexation of communication and the social relationship we have with books. Guy Laramee’s work plays heavily on the idea of erosion in that knowledge could very well be an erosive process rather than an accumulation. In that light, he brings up the human fascination with the content of consciousness. In turn, he examines not “what” we think about, but “that” we think. Through the glossy publication Art Forum, Francesca Pastine reveals the visceral topography of art trends through an unsolicited collaboration with the magazine and the cover artist. Doug Beube explores the book itself, a seemingly antiquated technology that is still purposeful in a digital age. He accepts its limited capacity as its personality flaw, but moreover its elegance.
In the face of unsettling changes, these artists appeal to a sense of monumentality in their work. The references to nature, religion, science or cultural complexity allude to the idea that only concepts of the greatest importance stand the test of time. Despite the emphasis on the precariousness of human invention, these works do not display a completely bleak outlook on society’s changes. The variety of color, form and openness of composition among the works also celebrate the ingenuity of creating something new from something old. The artworks simultaneously celebrate and forewarn the viewers of the fine line between monuments and ruins.

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