Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Art of the Book at Seager / Gray Gallery

On view until June 5, 2016, The annual Art of the Book exhibition at Seager/Gray Gallery features a variety of artist's books, from conceptual works to altered books to mixed-media unique books to wall hangings, to traditional fine press books. On my visit there, 19 May 2016, the sunlight glowing through the front window and skylights made it almost unnecessary for gallery lighting, and the space looked so beautiful that Donna had nearly forgotten to flip the switch.


Images of all the work are available in the printed exhibition catalogue and online at the Seager Gray website. I've included links to the closeups in this post. 

From the doorway you can see an installation of 49 printed handmade books hanging on the wall, "Red, Yellow, and Blue" by Alice Austin (right), and a wall hanging, "Almost Red" by Emily Payne, made out of found book cloth and book boards (and Donna Seager at the desk).

At the front of the gallery, the work feels summery, linenlike, with primarily natural materials and the colors of old book pages.


Barbara Wildenboer's framed work consists of finely cut, sculptural, altered books. The book on the pedestal is by Sarah Brown, titled, "84 Hours," which was the work week for William Wood, a bookbinder in 1788 (full story at the link).


My neighborhood of "HOUSEWORK" is displayed just behind the wall, in the  far left corner.


I love the intimacy of the back room of the gallery and the built-in counter. There are books that have pages cut and excavated, to create a kind of layered tunnel book effect. There are sculptural books made from old tools, book pages referenced by pieces of cut and sewn zippers, a skyline painted on books, images created from cutout letters, and many more. It's interesting to see the progression of the book as art and how it relates to a gallery setting. The book has become more of a material to sculpt and shape. Collage, alterations, and appropriations have become acceptable, widespread, and desirable.

A basket of gloves sits by the front door, available so the viewer can read and handle the books, but there were not as many books to read as I like. I am not ashamed: I have a bias. I miss the old book show days where text was prominent and the literature was as important as the art. Luckily, reading definitely has a part in this show. Julie Chen's new book, Bitter Chocolate, points to those days: a wonderful combination of writing, research, sculpture, invention, and imagery. Charles Hobson has a lovely new book with photocollages by his daughter, photographer and artist Mary Daniel Hobson, featuring Amy Hempel's short story, The Man in Bogotá. Inge Bruggeman's book, Nowhere to go is subtle and beautifully printed. And Ken Botnick's award-winning book Diderot Project is also quite remarkable. Aside from Julie's book and mine, though, I am not sure if there were any other books with original text by the maker. Curious, that. I'll be including a very brief excerpt from Julie's book in the summer issue 4.2 of Star 82 Review. Coming very soon!

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