Monday, December 21, 2015

Richard Kostelanetz: Modulations, Assembling Press: New York, 1975 [ed. 300] and Extrapolate, Brooklyn-Des Moines Assembling Cookie: New York & Des Moines, 1975 [ed. 400].

27 pages at 3.25" x 3" opened at 6' 9"

These are two really fascinating publications by the long-time bookist, publisher, commentator and all round word person, Richard Kostelanetz. These two accordions are dedicated to the constructivist movement and are part of a series titled 'Constructivist Fictions.' Constructivism as an art movement arose in the post-revolutionary period in Russia and attempted to develop an artistic practice that served a social purpose in the building of a new communist culture. Key among the artists who were part of this movement were, Kazimir Malevich, Naum Gabo, Vladimir Tatlin and Antoine Pevsner. 

Below are some selected statements from Kostelanetz's "Constructivist Fictions" manifesto that is related to these two works (Richard Kostelanetz | Examples | Manifestoes).

  Constructivist fictions tend "to write themselves," once their initial premises are established; 
  theprocess by which they are made could be called "generative."

  They embody an intelligence that exists apart from their author, and this intelligence focuses 
  upon matters of detail; constructivist fictions are intelligent in ways their authors might not be.

  Perhaps the most prominent current practitioner of constructivist fiction is Sol LeWitt (1928-2007) -    not in his three-dimensional objects but in such printed books as Arcs, Circles & Grids (1972).

  He who feels draws; he who thinks patterns.

 One critical issue in constructivist fiction is versimilitude - the fidelity of every detail not to
 extrinsic reality, but to material that went before and material that follows, which is to say the
 fictional reality fabricated within the piece itself.

Each of these two works present themselves as one long serial abstract pattern that ever so slightly changes its design as it moves from the left to the right. There is an internal logic to the pieces that is only apparent when you view the sweep of the works and how the different patterns are generated. In this sense Kostelanetz is correct when he points out the importance of their 'generative' aspect, because once this design schema is set up the work just unrolls by itself. The format and the overall quality of unfolding that accordions' possess is beautifully suited to this kind of visual work as its pattern and shapes literally unfold in front of you in this format. These two accordions are unique compared to all of the others I have reviewed for this site, and they present a very different viewing experience in their almost organic unity and their visual 'overallness' as opposed to traditional publications that have a beginning an end and all the highs and lows of the in-between. These works by comparison seem like totally enclosed organic loops that, aside from their visual beauty, also draw attention to their method of construction and their very particular way of being in the world.

24 pages at 3.75" x 3.75" opened at 7' 6"

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Gita Wolf & Joydeb Chitrakar, The Enduring Ark, Tara Books, India, 2nd printing 2013

This is a beautifully produced book that tells the story of Noah's ark in a series of sweeping images on both sides of the accordion, with the publisher stating  that this book is the "Indian version of the Biblical tale". Either way its a smart treatment of an old tale woven together through the wonderful traditional folk art style of Bengal. The book comes with a slip cover. Individual pages 9.5" (h) x 6" (w), with a total of 34 pages and an open width of 17 feet.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Mary Ting, Insomnia, 2009, New York, ed. 12.

An interesting work from this Chinese American visual artist who is based in New York. This piece was created for the 2009 Women Artists International Biennial in Incheon, Korea. The book includes images from her installation, Run-On Sentences as well as works from the drawing series Insomnia in the Other Garden a piece that included watercolor, soot, silkscreen and cut paper drawings. The book reads as per the Chinese language, from the end of the book to the front, which is curiously how the pre-Columbian codices were structured. Eight pages at 7" x 5.5" and fully opened 3' 8". For further information about Ting's work see:

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Helen Douglas, In Mexico: in the garden of Edward Jones, Weproductions: Yarrow, Scotland, 2014

Another little beauty from this long-time Scottish book artist. Invited to do a residency by the Mexican artist and publisher Martha Hellion, Douglas found her way to a wonderful surrealist paradise called Las Pozas (The Pools) that was created by the English poet, artist and surrealist Edward James. Located north of Mexico City the land was originally a coffee plantation that James acquired in 1947. At the beginning he planted orchids and settled exotic animals on the plantation but after a bad frost in 1962 destroyed many of the plants, he started creating his "Surrealist Xanadu" by building surrealist sculptures and buildings. By the time of his death in 1984 he had built 36 concrete sculptures spread out over 20 acres of jungle. 

Douglas' book is a celebration of this wonderful, and little known, artistic site.  Looking carefully at the pages one sees extra digital elements inserted into the original photographs in the form of birds, plants and patterns that reflect Douglas' desire to incorporate into the book elements of both contemporary Mexico and the weaving, embroidery and beadwork traditions of the indigenous peoples.

92 pages at 5" x 5" each, and open the width is 44ft 2". 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Marie Angel, The Ark, New York/San Francisco, Evanston/London: Harper & Row, 1973

A rather sweet accordion by the English illustrator Marie Angel (1923-2010).  Trained as a calligrapher, she attended Croydon School of Arts and Crafts and then the Royal College of Art in London. Soon after art school she started receiving commissions for her work and it can now be found in the permanent collections of important European and American libraries and musuems. In a short biographical note in this book it notes that she "...enjoys gardening, sports cars, and her cats..."  8 pages, single-sided, each 7.25" x 6.75" with total length of 4ft 6".

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Leo Quievreux, De la Paille sur la Ligne Bleue (The Straw on the Blue Line), Collection Sandwich #5, Le Dernier Cri, France, 1997. [edition 150]

Another great accordion from the Le Dernier Cri's 'Collection Sandwich' series that I was lucky enough to find this summer. I'm unsure how many there are in the collection (10?) but it seems to have started in 1995 and continued throughout the decade. This cool series is marked by editions designed by either an individual artist or a collaboration between two artists. The square format, the black boards of the covers and the silk screened insides reflect a real concern with quality and presentation. This one by Leo Quievreux is no exception and, although my French is not really up to translating the texts contained in here, you can clearly see that there's some kind of surreal landscape in which a crew of barely human creatures are fighting it out.  Size 5" x 5" with 7 double-sided pages, total length 45".