Friday, October 21, 2016

Alcatraz and Beyond, San Francisco: Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, 2014.

A nifty little publication printed on thick boards that gives the book a certain heft. One side juxtaposes photographs of assorted inmates with images highlighting what was happening outside in the larger culture throughout Alcatraz's history. The other side presents a written history of Alcatraz (1934-1963) accompanied by photographs that show prisoners engaged in a variety of activities all of which were associated with a number of different prison rules.

This is a thoughtful publication that provides a good introduction to the rich history of the nation's first maximum-security prison.

30 pages, double-sided, 6" x 4", fully extended 10'.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Some Breath King, PFCA International Artist Residency, Minneapolis: Aesthetic Apparatus, 2013 [edition 99]

All of the accordions that I put up on this blog usually have something we can learn from. But this publication is the exception as its a mess and at $45 a copy it's an expensive one at that. But it still can teach us something about face-to-face pairings and then their sequencing across the width of the accordion. 

The premise amongst this international and domestic group of 20 artists gathering in Minneapolis is that they would be randomly paired off and then each of them would be required to choose a character from a prepared list. Then each pair were required to collaborate in creating a one-page work that reflected an interaction between the two characters. I have no issue with this model of art making and indeed some of the individual pages are cool. So at this point the group had 10 works sequenced into 5 pairings. Presumably the accordion format was chosen as the most expedient and economical way to present this project. But this is where the problems start. The 5 pairings are awkward with the works seeming to resist each other, and these tensions carry over into the final sequencing of the pairings across the accordion. Additionally the paper the work has been printed is not suited to this type of folding as it leaves rough and uneven spines on the folds which effects the experience of holding the books in one's hands. The final result is a disjointed and jarring accordion that probably would have been better presented in the traditional book format!

10 pages, 8.5" x 7", total length 5' 10'.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Alden Viguilla, What the Baku?, New Jersey: Alden Viguilla, 2014. [edition: 28]

Another very individual accordion from Viguilla. Pasted into its cardboard folder this silkscreen accordion sits at the edge of being just plain weird, wonderful, otherworldly and I have a strong suspicion that kids would love it.

5 pages at 5.75" x 3.5" and total length 1' 11".  

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Paula Kemper, Toni, Zurich: Nimbus. Kunst und Bucher AG, 2012

A nice pocket-sized accordion by this young German artist and illustrator. The tale being told is certainly an enigmatic one with its central characters being a man, a woman and a bear. The characters wander across the pages in and out of different situations. Either way this is a really smart work that takes full advantage of the characteristics of the accordion format.

19 pages at 3.75" x 4", and fully extended 6ft 4".

Friday, July 8, 2016

La Jicama (The Gourd), #8, 1999, Chiapas, Mexico

I just came across another copy of this fantastic magazine created by indigenous Mayan women in San Cristobal, Chiapas, Mexico to promote Mayan culture. La Jicara's format, and this one is an atypical vertical accordion, embodies both pride, and resistance as it's modeled on the codices created by the women's Mayan ancestors that were all but destroyed by the Conquistadors and priests during the Spanish conquest. This periodical is only one of a number of publications produced by Taller Lenateros (The Woodlander's Workshop) which was founded in 1975 by an expatriate American, Ambar Past to promote Amerindian culture. The full range of their beautiful artists' books, prints and other publications can be seen, and purchased at: Taller leƱateros - papel hecho a mano.

I'm uncertain as to whether La Jicara is still being published but their current catalogue lists #8 (1998). In the summer of 2003 in Oaxaca I had the memorable experience of finding an almost complete set in the public art library near the main church. Silk-screened cover with 16 pages at 8.75" x 5.5", fully extended 11ft 4".

Friday, July 1, 2016

Tanya Modlin, Hotel Rompo, Chicago: Perfectly Acceptable Press, 2016

A fun Risograph accordion print by this Chicago-based independent comics artist and illustrator that depicts a wacky hotel with all sorts of different and strange activities taking place in a variety of rooms throughout and perpetrated by a retinue of wonderful human and non-human characters. In addition to the screen printed sleeve, on the back are some comics panels by Modlin as well.

6 pages, double-sided 10" x 5.25", and extended 2ft 7.5".  Available from this new Risograph publisher Perfectly Acceptable Press ( 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Romano Hanno, Worte machen das Unendliche endlich (Words Make the Infinite Finite), Basel: Romani Hanni, 2008. [Edition 290]

A really fascinating accordion by this book artist and typographer who was born in Switzerland in 1956. The title is apt for a work that is totally abstract and reflects Hanni's desire to reach the 'infinite' beyond the limitations of words, indeed in a statement on his web site about this work he says:

Although language can be explanatory, only signs and symbols evoke notions. They are capable of simultaneously incorporating all levels of human existence. Reaching down to the unfathomable depths of the soul grow their roots. Like a gentle breeze, language only touches the surface of understanding. Words make the infinite finite, signs and symbols carry off the spirit into the realms of the infinite world of being. They evoke notions, are signs of the unspeakable and are equally inexhaustible. 

Without signs or symbols, even the most modern of world views becomes impoverished. The division of soul and spirit has much to do with Gutenberg's invention. For the sake of the modern, supposedly unnecessary yet reliable and irreplaceable things are often sacrificed. Access to signs and symbols could lead to peace of mind in which all unconscious is not anxiously blocked out and avoided but embraced as a way of expanding consciousness. In this manner, the spirit could find a way out of self-isolation in which it is held captive by its unconditional worship of science and technology. 

There's a nice tension and balance created amongst the assorted geometric elements in this work, and coupled with small abstracted animals making appearances here and there across the work you have a bookwork that really leaves it largely up to the imagination of the viewer to interpret it as s/he desires. 

10 pages with individual pages at 4.75 x 3.25, handprinted in 4 colors, and extended it measures 2ft 8.5".

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Ginger R. Burrell, Sandy Hook, 2013. [edition 100]

A moving and well crafted accordion book that is a tribute to the 20 children between the ages of 6 & 7 as well as 6 adult staff, whose lives were cut short by another American terrorist with a military assault rifle on December 14, 2012 at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Connecticut.

In a statement on her website Burrell addresses how she came up with the format and images for the book:

"In thinking about how to represent the children and school staff who were killed, I settled on the idea of using teddy bears for the children and apples for the adults. After spending several days purchasing individual bears and apples, I began taking the school portraits. It got harder and harder as I worked on the book; and taking the group photo left me in tears. I can't help but think of all the group photos those children will never be in: graduation, weddings, and countless family portraits. The photos are laid out in yearbook style and feature the name, birth dates and death dates for each person killed." 

12 pages at 13" x 4.5" and extended 4ft 6inches.