A Day of Book Art Shows in San Francisco

I'm a usually "one day, one thing" sort of person, whenever possible. One hour anywhere is most often stimulating enough for me, but a friend and I wanted to catch a couple of book art exhibitions before they closed, and they weren't that far from one another. We were out all day.

First, we visited Seager Gray Gallery in Mill Valley for the Annual Art of the Book Exhibition.  Now in its the twelfth year, the show has evolved from a show of books that have sculptural and visual components to primarily sculptures and imagery that use books as their source material. I can enjoy art in most forms but was happy that there were still books to read as well.

Susan Porteous, Derivations, 2007
altered book, linen thread, wood
The caterpillar binding makes this book seem alive.

Ximena Perez Grobet, Words, 2016
This is a lively use of an accordion structure with the lines of poetry 
printed on the back in rows.
Each of the pages inside is devoted to a single letter and 
where it occurs in the Wallace Stevens poem. The poem includes
the phrases, "The reader became the book" and "The words were spoken
as if there were no book/Except that the reader leaned above the page." A wonderful
example of the connection between form and content.

Charles Hobson, The Mermaid, 2016
A story from the Salish (First Nations/Native American) people of the Pacific Northwest, imagined and realized by Hobson as a book/box with text on the mirrors and his beautiful monotypes. I've been familiar with Charles' work from the very beginning, and this one
reminds me of the impulses that he had from the start: a book as an
experience, a way to expand from something small to something grand.
This is a grand book, indeed!

Jody Alexander, Book No. 1 (from KEEP Modern Library)
Sewn together from discarded library book pages.
Always interested in tactility, Jody keeps looking for and finding
new ways of working with discarded library books (she's also a librarian).
The color and textures and composition are so nice here,
creating a joyful piece to look at and touch.

Islam Aly, Unleash, 2017
First, the angel seems trapped by the words, then moves up
the page, displacing the letters as it goes, until it has
flown up and out. 
Islam Aly is most interested in historical structures 
like the Coptic binding he has used here. It works
well to give the subject a timeless feel, connecting 
new technology (laser cutter for the images and text) 
with the old (Coptic binding).

Valérie Buess, Blue, 2012
Buess creates sculptures from paper taken from old books and rolled and attached. 
Here, she's used only blue pages. 
I couldn't resist trying to take a picture inside the larger entry hole. 
The light moves through it really nicely. 

Lisa Kokin, Not Like, 2017
Lisa miraculously moves from body of work to body of work and always dives deeply and totally commits to her process. Her work is meticulous and labor-intensive, and that intense practice shows. This piece is made with sewing and shredded money. She begins with the message and the materials, raising the question of what she wants to say with the materials and how. Together the threads and currency here form the poem "The New Colossus" by Emma Lazarus (written in 1883) that is attached to the base of the Statue of Liberty. A phrase from the poem is "Send these, the homeless, tempest-toss to me." The letters start out whole and gradually fracture until the words are illegible. 

As if these weren't enough riches, we drove over the Golden Gate Bridge (I'm waiting for the bill for my toll) to the Legion of Honor. First, we encountered the wonderful sculptures of Urs Fischer in the exhibition of The Public & the Private. This was one of many others. We didn't even get to the ones scattered throughout the interior of the building.

It will be on view until July 2, as will the book exhibit in the small gallery, 
Letter & Image.

Ward Schumaker, Respite (Markandaya), 2006
Acrylic and hand-cut paper collage.
The story, which seemed related to the Bhagavad-Gita,  came to Schumaker in a dream:
a little boy emerging from the mouth of a whale and talking to him.
The combination of the marks on the pages with the sharp edges of the letters 
is absolutely beautiful.

Xu Bing, Square Word Calligraphy
Here, he makes English writing look like Chinese writing.
He has always been interested in language, first making Book from the Sky, made of invented characters, which no one could read, then creating Book from the Ground: from point to point, made from symbols and icons, which anyone can read.
Really, you just have to browse his website.

Claire Van Vliet, Tumbling Blocks for Pris and Bruce
Described as a book with "two spines" that opens in a "spiral," this book I believe is made from offcuts from another of her works and appears to be a version of a one-sheet book. The elegant paper box is apparently made from two pieces of paper that hold each other in place, something not obvious from a distance. Van Vliet has been making books since 1955. 
She is a papermaker and designer of book structures as well as a MacArthur Fellow (something every book artist envies).
Amazingly, this 1996 book is still available from Abecedarian Gallery.

And if even this weren't enough, we still had Monet: The Early Years exhibition to see! (It ends May 29.) Monet's colors and skill were breathtaking in the paintings, which were primarily of snowscapes and seascapes, with some of his model-turned-wife Camille Doncieux. Not a waterlily or a haystack in sight (those are later paintings). This exhibit, which gathers paintings from a variety of museums, demonstrates how Monet worked out his process. His depictions of water and snow are exquisite. Of everything I saw that day, I was surprised at how the paintings of lapping waves and ones with multicolored whites of the snow made the biggest impression on me. I know they did, because they made me want to paint.


ronnie said…
this is a smorgasbord of riches! thank you for all the pics and commentary!!
Monica said…
Thanks for taking us with you. This is the only way I could ever see these shows.
Alisa said…
Ronnie and Monica, you're welcome! My pleasure.