The Spaceheater Editions title Vergangenheitsbewältigung by Gladys Garcia (Released in November 2016)

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Opening of Keith Smith's Retrospective at the Philadephia Museum of Art

I went to Philadelphia for a second time this year (!) to attend Keith Smith's retrospective show at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This was a great event, giving Keith some of the attention he so deserves.

This is the huge banner outside the PMA with Keith's head!

The opening, on February 15th, was spectacular. The show was installed in a very innovative way, mimicking the look and feel of Keith and Scott's home on Cayuga St in Rochester.

Here I am with Keith, and below that, my son Martin, who came down from NYC to attend the opening reception.

There were a number of luminaries there, including Keith's old friends June Leaf and Robert Frank.

Also there was book art rock-star, Hedi Kyle, who came down from her retirement home in the Catskills in Pine Hill, NY, to attend the opening.

Here are some more images from the show itself. The first is one of Keith in front of his fabulous photo-sikscreened quilt from 1965.

I love this artists' book.

There was also a copy of Keith's String Book (below) which I published in 1982.

Above the book was a looped video that showed each page being turned, Japanese Noh Theater style, but the people who were turning the pages dressed all in black with white gloves, so that they disappeared into the background.

Here is a photo of Keith with the curator of the show, Amanda Bock, with matching eye-ware clothes.

At the hotel, Keith and Scott joined me for breakfast. Sadly I missed his lecture and interview with Amanda on Saturday since I had to head back to Tucson to get ready for an eight o'clock class on Monday morning.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Show at Center for Book Arts in Manhattan

I have two books in a large show at The Center for Book Arts, in midtown Manhattan. The show, curated by Gary van Wyk, was about climate change and was entitled Our Anthropocene: Eco Crises. The show opened on January 19th and runs for one more week, until March 31, 2018. There was also a roundtable Discussion with some of the artists (I could not make it from Tucson) on March 2nd. A link to the show is here.

The two books of mine that were picked for the show were Paradise Lost: An Allegory, and Landscapes of the Late Anthropocene.

Paradise Lost: An Allegory, from 2013; accordion book.

Two images of Landscapes of the Late Anthropocene, 2017.

You can see a video of the show that includes images of both of my books, here.

CBAA National Conference in Philadelphia.

In January of 2018, Karen and I braved the bitter cold and winds of Philadelphia to attend the CBAA National Conference in Philly, hosted by the University of the Arts. The temperature actually went down below zero degrees several nights and we Tucsonans are not used to that kind of cold weather. We lucked out by arriving on Wednesday since there was a snow storm on Thursday and many flights were cancelled that day. We squeaked in, just in the nick of time, but some friends did not make it to the conference.

For about two weeks before the conference I was working on a very large 40"x60" wall map of the location and connections between many members of the book art community. The idea was to get membership of CBAA excited about a new institutional project that will not only have a digital family tree and oral and video interviews and histories of all of the members of the book art community.

Although at this small scale the connections just look like spaghetti, but at a large wall piece size, it was fun watching people gather around and follow the links and influences with their fingers.

The conference was fun, mainly in seeing old friends. Visiting some of the incredible Philadelphia cultural and book-related institutions really made the trip worth while. Highlights included the Free Library of Philadelphia and the Library Company, started by Benjamin Franklin. We were also fortunate to spend most of the Sunday after the conference at the Barnes Foundation. In addition to the incredible collection put together by Dr. Barnes, there was also an additional temporary show of recent work by Anselm Keifer, with some enormous books that he had painted. Coincidentally, Collette Fu was in the atrium showing off her huge photographic pop-up books.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

New book: Landscapes of the Late Anthropocene

About two years ago I read an online article by Sarah Zhang, entitled “The “Harvard Sentences” Secretly Shaped the Development of Audio Tech”.  The article was about a fascinating subject, the creation of a series of text lines that were used to test the fidelity of spoken words when broadcast over military and civilian radio transmitters. What ended up being 720 lines of text started as a series of short sentences that were meant to test the accuracy of military communication systems towards the end of the Second World War. They were developed in the basement of Harvard’s Memorial Hall, hence the informal name “Harvard Sentences" which is often included alongside the project's official title, “IEEE Recommended Practices for Speech Quality Measurements”.

The sentences are originally designed to be “phonetically balanced, meaning that the frequency of sounds in these lists matched that of natural language.” What I found especially interesting about these 720 sentences –72 lists of ten sentences each– is that they are mysteriously poetic and timeless. But they can also be thought of as a metaphor for determining (or not) meaning from the static, transmitted signal from noise. We, as the populations and governments of planet earth, certainly have not yet registered the dire warning message of global warming. You can read the Harvard Sentences here. Aside from the very early ones which were written during the war, it is difficult to ascribe any line or set of sentences to a particular author. They are still used by government and industry to this day.

Something about the text itself seemed haunting, in an old-fashioned, almost nostalgic sort of way. I wondered if I could use some version of them as a text to a book on climate change that I had started thinking about. I had done a similar kind of found-text editing for my book Long Story Short years ago, where I used aphorisms and cliché truisms to tell a narrative story. My son, Nick, an urban planner and GIS professional, had been researching changes in global sea-level projections as modeled by NASA, NOAA, and other agencies. The infographic visualizations that were used to show sea-rise levels over the next 100 years were unbelievably scary and much worse than the figures often cited in the newspapers and normal media channels. These figures showed an eventual rise, with all polar caps and glaciers completely melted, of over two hundred feet!

An article in the just published July 2017 issue of the National Geographic magazine, entitled Antartica is Melting, and Giant Ice Cracks Are Just the Start is very scary. Read it here. 

When I thought of a sea level rise of two hundred feet and what that could mean in terms of our cities and our society, the future seemed incredibly bleak. For the landscapes in the book, I decided to create a dystopian set of images that hinted at a future watery world, one where the remnants of civilizations lived in armed and guarded towers, growing their food in vertical farms inside these towers. The rest of the world population would have mostly died off. Marauding remnants existed in small groups that would try to gain entrance into these armed tower structures. The backgrounds of these images were built using scans of steel engravings from several 19th-century books. I used photos of water and waves to make the foregrounds. I have long been interested in airport control towers and have many photos of them around the world. They seemed to me like the modern version of towers on medieval castles. Using a web app by the programmer Evan Wallace, called webgl-filter, I changed the airport control tower photos into dithered images that looked more like the background steel engravings. The assembly and coloration of the images were done in Photoshop. The goal was to create a series of images of a forbidding and lonely watery world, one that was austerely beautiful but scary and thought-provoking.

Last Fall, Brad Freeman, of the Journal of Artists’ Books (JAB), wrote to me and asked if I would like to contribute an artists’ book to JAB Issue No.41, to be printed in the Spring of 2017. He gave me a number of possible size formats and I picked a smaller sized one that was 48 pages. The two-page spreads were to be four-color, alternating with a duotone spread using a color pair of my own devising. The book that I had originally planned was to be larger than JAB’s 4.5” x 5.5” size format with the whole book full color. But I liked the idea of using a dark-blue Pantone spot color, with silver as the duotone set for the alternating pages, since I rarely get to use metallic silver (or offset) anymore. I love silver offset ink, and metallic inks are rarely available to me now that I mostly use pigmented inkjet or digital print-on-demand for printing my books. I decided to have Brad Freeman produce this as a special version of the book for JAB, but I still plan to do a larger and longer version of the same subject matter. Brad agreed to send me 20 unbound printed copies of the JAB No.41 version so that I could 'case' those in and give them out to family and friends. In general, I don’t like self-covering books like the version that is included in the JAB journal, though I am grateful for the excellent production and printing that Brad and his grad student achieved. They did a great job.

For the duotone pages, I used two sets of images. For the blue background, I used Google Earth satellite views of water and shorelines, printed in that deep blue Pantone color. NOAA images of maritime depth charts were used for the silver depth numbers and contour lines. Editing and selecting the Harvard Sentences was a great deal of fun. There were so many that I felt had poetic resonance with the subject matter, starting with the initial text line, “There is a lag between thought and action” which seemed the perfect way of describing where we as earthlings are in regards to climate change.

The twenty copies that Brad sent were sewn and cased-in by me, with a silver foil-stamped title on the cover. I am hoping to create the second, larger version in 2018, and publish an expanded edition of fifty copies myself, using pigmented inkjet, and letterpress with metallic silver ink for the text and contour lines on the alternating spreads. I am planning on the new version to have about 96 pages instead of the current 48.

This version is 4.5” x 5.5”. The text block is printed by offset at the Center for Book and Paper at Columbia College Chicago on their Heidelberg GTO. The hardcover boards and end sheet pastedown were printed by myself using pigmented archival inkjet, and foil-stamped on the cover and blind embossed title on the spine. If you would like a copy of the JAB version, go here. I think there are still copies available.

You can see every page, plus a video of the entire book here.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Book Arts & Rare Book Curator, Sandra Kroupa, visits my class.

Sandra Kroupa, Book Arts and Rare Book Curator at the University of Washington Library's Special Collections, and good friend, visited this past week from Seattle, WA. Although she was only here for four days, it felt like we did so many things, including eating a lot of sushi, Sandra's favorite food.

On Wednesday night we went out to Tucson's Campbell/Rillito bridge to watch the bats leave at dusk. Sandra is a card-carrying member of Bat Conservation International. I used to be a member too, back when I lived in the Hudson Valley. Here we are under the bridge as the light started to fail, and the thousands of bats that emerged to fly out into the night to hunt for insects.

We had all of Wednesday to discuss artists books. She was curious about my photographic artists' book collection (and other artists' books) since she is interested in adding more 'photobookworks' to her artists' book collection. Incidentally she has built the University of Washington's Artists' Book Special Collection into one of the largest (if not the largest) public collections in the United States. It's always interesting talking artists' book "shop" with Sandra. 

While I was teaching my animation class, she spent some time on Thursday morning doing some touch-ups on her Powerpoint lecture for the Visual Narrative and the Artists' Book class.

She spoke to my class, giving an inspiring lecture on "Social Justice and the Artists' Book". 

She also spoke informally to the class about pricing and selling artists' books, and later met with them individually to do book crits. 

It was really generous of her to take that much time out of her busy schedule to come to Tucson and spend time with my students. Thank you, Sandra!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Daily Beast article cites post-election Vergangenheitsbewältigung

Gladys Garcia sent me a heads-up on New Year's Day that there was an interesting article in the Daily Beast (see linked piece) that used the concept of the compound word Vergangenheitsbewältigung (the process of coming to terms with your past). The article used the term in a very different way than Gladys did in her book. It's written by Sabine Heinlein, a German-American, who has lived in this country for many years. She noted the many press reports of the rise in hate and race crimes since Trump's election and her own personal experiences with xenophobia on the streets of New York. She writes about how Germany, after the atrocities of WWII, learned a much greater sense of tolerance (for the most part) from that experience. 

"I have plenty of problems with Germany, but its people’s willingness to speak their minds and stand up for others isn’t one of them. Whatever you do, in Germany the public good trumps your individual desires.... Germans have also worked hard to understand how the unspeakable happened. They have one of those unwieldy compound words for it: Vergangenheitsbewältigung, or “the process of coming to terms with your past.” The concept includes a duty to intervene when another’s dignity or life is in danger."

Heinlein says that this should be lesson for Americans to step up and confront any racist acts, bigotry or hate crimes that we see. Interesting to see this long and complex word used in such a different context.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Most Recent SE Title: Vergangenheitsbewältigung, by Gladys Garcia

Spaceheater Editions is proud to announce the publication of a new title, Vergangenheitsbewältigung, by Gladys Estrellita Garcia.
Vergangenheitsbewältigung is a limited edition artists' book by Gladys Estrellita Garcia. It was published in November 2016 by Spaceheater Editions. Vergangenheitsbewältigung is the process of coming to terms with the past. Vergangenheit, “past” and Bewältigung, “overcoming the negative, repressed and incriminating mental injuries and guilt.”  It is a German composite word that is best rendered in English as the “struggle to overcome the negatives of the past.” 

In  2016 Garcia found a box of old family photographs in an antique store. The photographs chronicled the life of a small German-American boy named Klaus Lechner, starting around 1890 and continuing until the 1940s or 1950s. It is unclear where he grew up, but the picture of the family homestead (shown on the colophon page) appears to be somewhere in the Midwest. Although there were family first names on the backs of the photographs, there wasn't much other information aside from the little boy's last name. Garcia thought about how this one family's precious genealogical visual record ended up in a Southwestern antique store, and how nobody in the future will remember them, their personalities, or any of their human foibles. Using a scanner, Garcia "treated" the original photographs to appear as they were being viewed though the twists and mists of time. The text she wrote uses the thesis that people (or maybe more precisely family) are rarely acknowledged or remembered for positive things. And in the end, as greater and greater amounts of time pass, that it really doesn't matter, since all is forgotten.

Gladys Estrellita Garcia was born and raised in West Texas. She is about to receive (May 2017) an MFA from the University of Arizona in Tucson. She has a BFA in Visual Communications and a BA in Spanish from Northern Arizona University. She currently resides in Tucson, Arizona with her hydrocephalic Chihuahua Lego.

Vergangenheitsbewältigung is published in a signed and numbered edition of 50. Each book contains one of five different original, signed, archival, pigment inkjet photographs. They are enclosed in a special acid-free, patterned, glassine envelope inside the back cover. The book is 48 pages plus the endsheets, and is 7" x 7" x 3/8" and is HP Indigo printed on Mohawk Superfine 100lb text paper. The text block has blackened head, tail and fore-edges. Available through Spaceheater or Vamp & Tramp Booksellers Ltd.  $75. plus shipping.
You can see a full video and large images of every spread at the Spaceheater Editions website.

Monday, November 21, 2016

West/Southwest Regional SPE Conference in Tucson, Arizona

It's been a couple of weeks since the 2016 West and Southwest co-hosted Regional SPE Conference was held here in Tucson. Sponsored by the University of Arizona, Pima County Community College, the UA School of Art, the Center for Creative Photography, the Etherton Gallery, and SUVA, the Southwest University of Visual Arts. Although it was technically just November 4, 5 and 6th, it  extended beyond those dates, since Mishka Henner, the keynote speaker, arrived the weekend before the conference to do research at the CCP and interact with grad students. Alejandro Cartagena, who flew in from Monterrey, MX gave a terrific VASE (Visiting Artist) Lecture at the CCP the night before the start of the conference, followed by a speaker's reception dinner.

Mishka Henner

This conference was a long time in the making. We started the planning about a year and a half before the event. We had settled on the theme of photobooks a year before, but that was slightly expanded to Hunting + Gathering: The Photobook and Image Archives. This made some sense because of the fact that Mishka Henner was the keynote, and Kate Palmer Albers was another main speaker and that is one of the areas encompassed by her research. The panel, which I put together, was called Crosscurrents in Photobook Publishing and took place on Saturday afternoon. The panel was on the subject of different types of photobook publishing, and was moderated by Mary Virginia Swanson.

After Mishka's talk, the University of Arizona professor and photo historian, Kate Albers, had an hour long conversation on stage with Mishka. These things are not always very enlightening, but this was quite wonderful and worthwhile. Here they are on stage, in dialogue:

Before the keynote at Pima Community College, a couple of long-time educators were honored for their careers, Sheila Pirkle from the Western Chapter, and Bill Jenkins, from the Southwestern Chapter. There were a number of other speakers the next morning, including a juried selection of graduate students showing their work. They were from a number of different graduate programs in California, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico.

Our photobook panel went on at 1:00 pm and continued through until 2:30; a very rushed hour and a half. The moderator was the extremely accomplished Mary Virginia Swanson, known by everyone as Swanee. She herself did a presentation, then introduced each panelist. (As you may know she is the author of a well-known book on photobook publishing.)

M.V. Swanson; photo by Stefan Wachs.

The panelists were Alejandro Cartagena, a photographer and maker of self-published photobooks from Monterrey, Mexico and most famous for his book Carpoolers.

Alejandro Cartagena

The next of four panelists was Mike Slack of Ice Plant, a photobook publisher in Los Angeles, and perhaps best known for his book OK OK OK.

Mike Slack

The third panelist was Deirdre Visser of CHROMA in the San Francisco Bay Area, a non-profit publisher of books on and made by minority and disenfranchised populations.

Deirdre Visser  

I was the last photobook publisher panelist and described some of the books that I produce which are on the far left of the photobook field and are more photo-based artists' books than just photobooks. I also mentioned that my books are far down on the photography book to photobookwork continuum. I discussed briefly my continuum chart, which I also sold after the talks.

Sadly there was not enough time, and the last two or three presentations had to be rushed through. We never had the sit-down group panel conversation. That might have been interesting and useful to some in the audience. Clearly, this will have to be done again sometime soon.

Terry Etherton of Tucson's Etherton Gallery hosted a well-attended reception at his gallery on Saturday night with a mini-display of some of Alejandro's books and pictures.

The next day, in addition to some open-studios for the MFA grads, we had a book showing and open house in the Book Art and Letterpress Lab, with bagels, cream cheese, coffee, and orange juice. Swanee put out a number of recently published photobooks that were unusual and exciting in content. and format. 

The conference was extremely successful, by far the best regional conference that I have ever attended. I think it is also the first where the keynote was flown in from Europe, and where one of the panelists was from Mexico. Usually, those sort of art stars only appear at national conferences.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Judging InFocus Self-Published Photobooks at the Phoenix Museum of Art

I spent a very long day yesterday at the Phoenix Museum of Art. I was helping to judge the second triennial InFocus Juried Exhibition of Self-Published Photobooks at the Phoenix Art Museum with my fellow jurors Mary Virginia Swanson, Becky Senf, Ray Carns, Larissa Leclair, Christian Waguespack, and Emily Weirich. There apparently weren't quite as many submissions as last time but there were still almost 200, so it was an impressive job to get through that many photobooks and give them the full attention that they deserved. 

The show is based on an exhibition mounted in 2012 in Cleveland called DIY:Photographers & Books, which was the brainchild of Barbara Tannenbaum, Curator of Photography at the Cleveland Museum of Art. A link to the show is here. Some of the same people in that show submitted books to this current juried exhibition. Mishka Henner, at that time an almost unknown, had four books in that show. He is now internationally known and will be the keynote speaker at our regional SPE Conference coming up this week in Tucson.

Here are some photos of the large room where about eight tables were set up full of submissions. The first shot was as we arrived and started to discuss the procedure for reviewing the books.

One of the things I immediately noticed was the very high level of finish on most of the books and the fact that at least 60 or 70 percent of the books were hard cover, not something one associates with print-on-demand self-published books.

The jurying went right up to 6:00 o'clock when the Museum was to kick us all out. I am looking forward to the release of the final tally of the scores to see which titles made it in. I certainly had my top 20, but the final list may be as high as 100. However the total maximum acceptance number hasn't been determined yet.

The show will open in November and stay up until April, 2017.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

SF Symposium: 'Futures of the Book: How Artists Redefine Print Media'

There is an important one-day symposium coming up soon in San Francisco, and if you are anywhere in the Bay Area or nearby, I urge you to attend. Steve Woodall, of the Reva and David Logan Foundation, has put together the symposium called "Futures of the Book: How Artists Redefine Print Media." It takes place on the afternoon of Saturday, October 22nd at The Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park, San Francisco.

Of special interest to me are Alistair Johnston, longtime proprietor of Poltroon Press, Daniel Mellis of the University of Illinois, Chicago, Clifton Meador, Appalachian State University, and Emily McVarish of California College of the Arts.

Alistair Johnston is a longtime publisher, and expert on all things letterpress, including iron hand presses and other proofing printing presses, and a well-known expert on typography. Alistair is also an erudite scholar of what many would call 'World Music', and most especially African music. I am curious how he will address Futures of the Book, the topic of the symposium theme.

This is the Poltroon Press' Stanhope press as shown on the Poltroon Press website.

I am very interested in the project that Daniel Mellis has been working on for three or more years, along with the Russian translator and scholar, Eugene Ostashevsky. This project involves the facsimile version of perhaps one of the most famous artists' books of all time, Vasily Kamensky with Vladimir and David Burliuk's Tango With Cows from 1914. The original Cyrillic Russian-language text has been replaced by English-language Roman type so all of the text can now be read by Anglophones. A similar attempt at translated facsimile was attempted by MIT Press with Vladimir Mayakovsky and El Lissitzky's For the Voice, in 2000, with very mixed results. The production values of that small volume, though now worth a great deal of money, were pretty poor. Mellis has gone the other route and taken years working out all the details, to the point of hand-screening new facsimile wallpaper like that used in the original version of Tango with Cows. The image below is courtesy Daniel Mellis.

Finally, Clifton Meador and Emily McVarish will have a conversation with each other about two of each of their newest books. This should be a real treat. The books that they will interview each other about will be Emily's Lessons of Darkness (published by Granary Books in 2016) and Clif's book Pankisi Prayer Rug (published by Demerritt/Pauwels Editions in 2015 with the deluxe edition in 2016). McVarish and Meador are both at the peak of their games and among the best artists working in the artists' book medium today. What really sets them apart from almost everyone else is a combination of excellent writing, sophisticated and innovative design, and (the trifecta) fascinating conceptual content. Add to all of that an extremely high level of production craft and you have among the very best artists' books published anywhere in the world. I wish I could be there to hear what I am sure will be their incisive, witty and thought-provoking discussion.

With more advanced notice I might have been able to make this symposium, but like many of these events, the PR material just came out this week, which is a shame for those of us 500 miles away. I am hoping that the lectures and discussions will be recorded and disseminated.

Friday, October 14, 2016

West/Southwest SPE Regional Conference Focuses on Photobooks in Beautiful Tucson, Arizona

In less than three weeks, days before our national election, two regional chapters of the Society for Photographic Education (SPE) will be co-hosting a conference in Tucson that focuses primarily on photobooks. The official title is "Hunting and Gathering: Trends in Photo Books and Image Archives". Originally it was on photobooks alone, but the theme was expanded somewhat to include image archives. This was due partly to the fact that the keynote speaker, Mishka Henner, a Belgian who lives in Manchester UK, works with archived images presented in artists' photobook form. One of the other featured speakers is Dr. Kate Palmer Albers, who teaches art history here at the University of Arizona, and Kate has a primary research interest in web-based photo archives.

The link to the conference is here. There is still time to attend, though the discount on the hotel ends on October 18th, so you should act soon.

I am on the planning committee for this conference and we have been working on it for a year and a half. We are very excited to have the dynamic Mishka Henner as keynote speaker. As far as we know it is the first time that a regional SPE conference has flown in a speaker from Europe. I have six of his artists' photobooks and I love his work. His bio description says "Mishka Henner is among a new generation redefining the role of photography in the internet age. Since 2010, he has embraced print-on-demand publishing as a means to distribute his work and ideas. In 2013 he was awarded the International Center of Photography's Infinity Award for Art." He is represented by the Bruce Silverstein Gallery in New York. 

A part of my duties on the planning committee was to put together a panel during Saturday afternoon on "Cross-currents in Photobook Publishing." The panel will be moderated by possibly the best person in the world to host a panel on publishing photobooks, Mary Virginia Swanson of M.V. Swanson & Associates, also known personally as Swanee

It is an interesting and eclectic group of panelists and we represent four distinctly different viewpoints on how to get photobooks published: 

Deirdre Visser, who is a curator of the arts at the Bay Area California Institute of Integral Studies, spearheads Chroma, a non-profit publisher that strives to "promote pluralism in the arts, to support artists in the creation of new work, and to foster dynamic and critical dialogues within and across communities that propose integrative approaches to the urgent questions we collectively face.." and "also interested in non-traditional approaches to cultural production and cultivating collaborative relationships with communities." 

Mike Slack is an L.A.-based "indie" photobook publisher, who co-founded and co-publishes under the imprint The Ice Plant. He has also published photobooks in collaboration with J&L Books. They are distributed by Artbook-DAP

Alejandro Cartagena is a Monterrey, MX based photographer who has gained much notoriety in the last few years in the photobook world. He self-publishes books like his very well-known Carpoolers and Rivers of Power. We both lectured (as did Deirdre) this summer at the VSW Biennial Photo-Bookwork Symposium in Rochester, NY. He will also be speaking on the day before the SPE conference opens for the VASE Lecture Series (not part of the conference), on Thursday (November 3rd) evening at 5:00 pm, at the Center for Creative Photography Auditorium in Tucson.

I round out the panel, also representing self-published books, but under the Spaceheater Editions title. My books are usually in much more limited editions, are signed-and-numbered, and many of my books tend to cross over more into the artists' book world, even though almost all of them are photo-based. I will be giving out a new, just revised, version of my Photography Book to Photobookwork Graphic Continuum chart, which most likely will irritate and possibly confuse many of the attendees. 

There will be a number of other events at this two-day SPE conference but I am focusing here on ones that relate to my interest in artists' books and photobookworks.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Gary Robbins of Container Corps at 2016 NYABF

One of the more interesting books on display at the 2016 New York Art Book Fair in September was Gary Robbins' Recording: Aurora. Gary has been making books like Recording Aurora for several years and makes sets of two in bunches. Gary is one of the founders of Portland Oregon's innovative Container Corp. one of the very few artists' presses that uses offset lithography in the production of their work. It was at the Container Corps table that Gary was showing books in the Recording series. He sold four or five of them during the fair, including one of them to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, via Tony White.

They are all called Recording: [then-a-name-that-describes-that-batch]. Click here to go to the page for the recording series. On the page link above, one can see Recording Yellow Changes and Recording Rainbow Switch. Each set is in an edition of two.The reason for this is because of the way that he makes them. He loads paper and ink in the offset press and then runs paper adding ink or letting some of the ink run out while the press is printing.

So even though they are nominally in editions or batches of two, each book is really unique. Here is a video that I took of Gary "performing" the copy of the book that was purchased by Champe Smith at NYABF.

There is no text anywhere in the book, and in fact, the only title text is etched into the spine of the Plexi slipcase. It's the kind of book that could only have been made by someone who runs their own press. It is interesting to see from the video here and the two videos on his website, that the different batches are quite different, and the names of the books reflect the general look of the changing ink. The book is bound using a special machine that Container Corps has that notches the spine (see the picture below) and then sews around the notches, after which a coating of PVA adhesive is added. This type of binding is called "oversewn perfect binding", and is far more permanent than the usual perfect bound book which does not use thread at all.

Gary has done a very nice job with this process concept and it's beautifully packaged, but he is not the first to employ this type of process-oriented technique. In the seventies both Joan Lyons and Jan Voss did similar books. Joan's Full Moon used an image where the ink on the press was allowed to run out, then loaded the paper back in and ran the paper through on the other side or just flipped on the same side ("work-and-turn"), again letting the ink slowly run out.

She also used other interesting process techniques for other books, like using square paper and then turning the sheet 90 degrees each time as she ran it through the press again. Around the same time, Jan Voss, in the Netherlands, did similar things while running his beloved Rotoprint offset press.