Turkish map-fold spread from the new book 'Reaper' (2015)

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Another New York Art Book Fair at MoMA-PS1

I leave for the 10th Annual New York Art Book Fair at MoMA-PS1 tomorrow morning early. I think I've only missed two of them, one during the summer that I moved to Arizona. It has changed and grown much larger (30,000 attendees last year) since the years it was at the old Dia Foundation space in Chelsea.

My old friend and book fair partner of past years, Clif Meador, and I have decided for the second year to not have a table. The table price doubled last year to $1400, and unless one has several new books selling for under $50, sales will be minimal and extremely hard to cover that cost. Even without a table I still go to the event for many reasons. It is a very exciting place to see new work, especially from European and Asian (specifically Japanese) publishers. Virtually every important indie photobook publisher is there. And there is lots of other, non-photo artists' book work on display. Throughout the three and a half days, there are many publishing events and book signings. This year, two that I am looking forward to are Mike Mandel's new compilation of his groundbreaking 1970s work, plus a much-anticipated new bookwork by Christian Patterson.

Last year I was also fortunate to be the subject of a critical panel on my work at the concurrent Artists' Book Conference that Tony White coördinates. This year there are a number of interesting panels, including one by Johanna Drucker and Brad Freeman marking the 20th anniversary of the publishing of A Century of Artists' Books. There are also many tangential book events around town. On Wednesday night at the Columbia University Rare Book Library there is a celebration of Steve Clay's 30th year of Granary Books. Friday night there is a party and talks at the Center for Book Arts honoring the 40th year since their founding by Richard Minsky.

Clif and I are also on a mission. We are scouting for new publishers to be included in a large book art show that will open in the Fall of 2016 at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, conceived and coördinated by Mary Anne Redding, the Art Gallery Director there. And I will be bringing some new work along, especially Celsius 233, which I might be able to sell to some collectors who attend the book fair.

And of course it is also a chance to visit with my musician son Martin and his talented girlfriend Bri, who live in Brooklyn. It is so much fun to see and visit with all of the other wonderful friends that either come to the NYBF or live in the New York City area. I am forever grateful that Karen and I are also perennially and generously hosted by our dear friend Champe Smith who has an amazing apartment in Penn South in Chelsea. So it is always a trip that I look forward to eagerly. Sadly, because of the amount of Fall travel this year, Karen is coming with me this year. The book fair ends Sunday evening and I will be heading home to Tucson on Monday afternoon.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Video to be played while viewing Celsius 233

I created a single-channel video piece to be used as a "viewing environment" while reading the artists' book of the same name. The video can be viewed here, or can be viewed from a blu-ray DVD that is enclosed in the protective phase box that comes with every copy of Celsius 233.  (This is the second viewing environment that I have created thus far for one of my artists' books. Last year (2014) during a residency at Ucross Artist's Residency in Wyoming, I created a two-channel video piece for another of my books On the Nature of Things. That book is still in progress, though the video part of the piece is finished.)

The video plays off of the famous 1823 quote by Heinrich Heine "Where books are burned, in the end people will be burned too." Heine's poems and writings were included in the huge piles of books that the Nazi's burned.

Like the video for On the Nature of Things, the projected image was meant to be shown very large on walls behind the spot-lit podium that holds the book(s). Because the book will be shown at the biennial Faculty Art Show at the University of Arizona Museum of Art, with limitations on space and lighting conditions, I am showing the video on a large flat screen monitor directly behind the podium which holds the book. Although it is not as powerful and immersive as showing the image projected very large on the wall behind the book, the installation still works well. This is how the installation at the UAMA, opening at the end of September 2015, looks:

I created the video from numerous edited clips that I obtained from the National Holocaust Museum, part of the Smithsonian Institution. Their video was originally from The National Archive, also in Washington, DC. After re-editing and re-assembling the many video clips, sometimes duplicating and flopping them, I brought the video into Adobe After Effects to colorize it in the same manner that the hardcopy paper book's images were done. The audio came from three sources: I used audio samples from the soundtrack of Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will; from a 1938 color Nazi newsreel of the Nuremberg rally; and a short sample from Aldo Ciccolini's version of Erik Satie's 1888 Gymnopédies No. 1, which has the performance instructions "Lent et douloureux" (slow and painfully).

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Celsius 233, a new book in an edition of 50.

In June of 2014, the Islamic State, known in the Middle East as Daesh, seized Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq. In February of 2015, the Islamic State jihadists detonated explosives in the Mosul Library, destroying the large building, but not before burning all of the books, including many rare and irreplaceable volumes dating from the last 500 years. They released a series of videos proudly showing the destruction. I found this very upsetting, and while at Brush Creek Ranch Art Residency and later at Playa Summer Lake Residency, I started doing research on the history of book burning. I found that burning books has a long and infamous history dating back a couple of thousand years. Most people know about the Nazi’s burning books as well as the famous Ray Bradbury book Fahrenheit 451, but it turns out that almost every authoritarian regime (and some that are nominally not authoritarian like the United States) has burnt books that do not agree with their cultural and political viewpoints.

Celsius 233 came out of this research. The book contains 40 pages displaying acts of libricide in chronological order. The title page spread includes a famous quote by Heinrich Heine, whose own literary work was included in some of the book burnings orchestrated by the Nazis. Inserted small orange laser-cut tongues of flame describe the date and action of each image through time. The images were obtained on-line, mostly from the Library of Congress and the National Archive and some educational institution archives. A list of credits appear in a colophon.

For me books are sacred. I know that burning books can hardly be compared to executions by beheading or burning a person alive, two things that the Islamic State has done a lot of. (They justify many other acts of cruel barbarity.) But burning books is a symbol for me of intolerance and narrow fundamentalist views. All that I love, art and music and science, are made manifest and disseminated in books. They are historically the media used for the free flow of ideas and culture. Because of that they must be immolated by the narrow-minded and ignorant followers of a mute and humorless god. 

Celsius 233 has 40 pages, is hand-bound using a multi-needle coptic stitch with sewn-on hard covers made of acid-free solid-core black museum board. The paper is acid-free French Paper. The images are printed using archival inkjet ink with three-color foil stamping on the cover, the title page and the back cover. The interior flame sheets are loose-inserted in a slot in each interior folio. It is printed in a signed and numbered edition of 50 and comes in an acid-free phase box. Dimensions are 6.5" x 9" x .375" (16.5cm x 23cm x 1cm). Each book comes with a DVD containing a short projection video optionally meant to be viewed while looking at the book.

You can see a video of the book and every page spread by going to my website, here.


Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury (1953); Ballantine Books, New York, NY.

A Universal History of the Destruction of Books from Ancient Sumer to Modern-day Iraq; Fernando Báez (2008); Atlas & Co. New York, NY.

A History of Reading; Alberto Manguel (1996, 2014); Penguin Books, New York, NY

Libricide: the Regime-Sponsored destruction of Books and Libraries in the Twentieth Century; Rebecca Knuth (2003) Praeger, Westport, CT and London, UK.

Burning Books and Leveling Libraries: Extremist Violence and Cultural Destruction; Rebecca Knuth (2006); Praeger, Westport, CT and London, UK.

Books on Fire: The Destruction of Libraries Throughout History; Lucien X. Polastron (2004, 2007) Inner Traditions, Rochester, VT.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Closing Reception, Friday, July 26 for The Contained Narrative Show

I'm in a show at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts' MCBA Star Tribune Foundation Gallery in Minneapolis. The show is called The Contained Narrative: Defining the Contemporary Artists' Book, and was curated by Cathy Ryan. A link to it is here.

I am very happy to be in such good company; it is quite a show. The show itself opened on April 8 and closes this coming Sunday, July 26, 2015. However, the Closing Reception is this Friday, July 24th between 6 and 9 pm, and is being held in conjunction with the MCBA Book Art Biennial. The Biennial is a wonderful event and the finalist for the competition will be chosen this week. I was one of the jurors for this event four years ago. It attracts stellar work from all over the world.

The Contained Narrative is divided up int categories: The Book, Bound and Unbound; The Virtual Book; The Book as Environment/Environment as Book (this is the category that my book Sanctus Sonorensis is in; The Book as Metaphor; The Book as Object; The Book as Score and Performance; and finally The Book as Collaboration and Community.

If you are in the Minneapolis or St Paul area, please go by the reception if you have a chance. MCBA, an amazing facility, is located at 1011 Washington Ave. S #100, Minneapolis, MN 55415. Their phone number is 612 215 2520.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Book Arts Collective Facebook Page

I come across interesting information and resources on books, typography and printing fairly frequently. Rather than posting on Tumblr, Instagram, or my own website or Facebook page, I have been posting new items on the Book Arts Collective Facebook page.

This is a public FB page so all are welcome to join and to post anything related to books, typography or printing. Started a few years ago, the membership has grown to about 230. Originally it was meant as a resource and news site for book art and letterpress students and faculty at the University of Arizona in Tucson, but it has slowly morphed into a general site for anyone interested in the above subject matter. There are occasionally news items for book people in Tucson and at the University of Arizona, but most posts are really for anyone interested in books and printing. If you are curious, and you are on Facebook, please join us.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

April at Playa Summer Lake

I spent the entire month of April at the amazing artists' residency called Playa Summer Lake, located in south-central Oregon. It's on the northern edge of the Great Basin. I got back to Tucson after a very long two-day drive very late on May 2nd.

Playa is unusual in that it encourages not just writers, musicians and visual artists but also scientists, especially those who are interested in ecology issues. The first two weeks I was there two USGS aquatic biologists, Morgan Ford and Mike Venarsky, were there and did a lot of testing of the critters in the pond at the Playa residency property as well as the large body of water called Summer Lake on which the residency sits.

The residency is expertly run by the photographer Deb Ford, who is the Executive Director. She used to be the manager at the Ucross Foundation, another terrific artists' residency. For many years she taught photography at Prescott College in Prescott, AZ.

I have included a few pictures that show the Playa residency (the reddish buildings in the photos below) and it's environs. The pond stays full of water all year, but Summer Lake is only two feet deep (though six miles across) and it dries up in summer. It does not fill up with water until the winter and spring snow and rain fill it up again.

This view shows the residency, facing east, with Summer Lake beyond. {Click on the photos to see a larger view.}

The photo below show the view from the grassy alkaline flats on the shore of the lake, looking west. The hills beyond are full of wild flowers and juniper trees up to a certain hight. Above that are the remains of a large forest fire that happened in the Fremont National Forest in 2002.

I have below a few pictures of the grounds. The first photo is of the commons building where there is a dining room, a large comfortable living room, a professional kitchen and rooms for doing film screening and playing ping pong and the like.

Views of the living and dining area:

The main "green" with some of the 10 cabins for residents:

Below is my cabin, which is really more a cottage than a cabin, and which was located right on the residency pond.

A partial view of the interior of my space, which shows my work area with computer and color printer.

This shows the view from my deck. It is right on the pond, with lots of duck action, and beyond the lake.

Below a view of the southern-most part of the lake, taken from a logging road that leads up to the Fremont National Forest.

We also did a number of field trips including a trip to the Paisley Caves, the sit of an archaeological dig where some of the oldest human and animal remains have been found, dating from 14,500 and 16,000 years old. Caprolites were found that showed that the human DNA matched that of the inhabitants of Siberia, potentially confirming the Bering land-bridge theory of how humans came to the American continents.

There were several changes of residents while I was there. Most people stay a month, but a number stayed only two weeks due to jobs and other commitments. An interesting writer was there, Chin-Sun Lee; several poets: Jane Otto, Catherine Woodard; and many visual artists including several other book artists. Those included Bea Nettles and Sandy Tilcock. Also there were painters and sculptors, including Suzanne Lee, David Nechak, Robert Tomlinson and Carlie Trosclair. The well-known writer and poet Bill Fox was there for the last two weeks of my stay. He posted a blog about his stay which is here.

It was a very productive residency for me. (I got a lot of work done!) The first week I worked on and completed final edits for a two-channel video piece that is meant to be shown in a gallery as a viewing environment for a new book that I am concurrently working on called The Nature of Things. It is my take on the famous epic poem by Lucretius. I was also working on another book called Celsius 233, about book burning. The last week I was there I was working on my chapter of a book on the history of four-color process printing to be published by the RIT Press in 2016.

One of the other important things that took up my time while at Playa was observing the incredible bird life there. A quick list of birds came to about 36 different species and there were a few birds that I could not identify.

Some of the ones that I could recognize included cedar wax wings, sandhill cranes, white-faced ibis, meadowlarks, mountain bluebirds, merlins, flickers, eared grebes, tree swallows, barn swallows, bufflehead dusks, cinnamon teals, two types of gulls, snow geese, swans, brewer's blackbirds, robins, numerous finches, red-winged blackbirds, many kinds of raptors, the list goes on and on. It was birder heaven.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

March Artist Residency at Brush Creek Foundation in Southern Wyoming.

I will leave in 36 hours for a month-long residency at the Brush Creek Foundation. I'm driving up to Santa Fe, NM and spending the night there, then heading up to Boulder for a stop-over with my good friends Melanie Walker and George Peters. Monday morning, weather permitting, I head up to Brush Creek. It is located near Saratoga, a couple of hours from Laramie in south central Wyoming.

I fear that it will not look like the image above. I have been warned by Melanie that March is often the snowiest month of the year in Colorado and Wyoming. She also mentioned that the weather is supposed to be snowy for the next five days. The one good thing is that it is so cold that it may not actually snow that much, more like dustings predicted.

I am very much looking forward to it though. I may end up hunkered down in the snowy landscape with occasional trips out with snow shoes and cross country skis (both of which the staff there say can be loaned out to residents) for exercise and to see some of the spectacular landscape.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

High Tension on ArtStore blog.

I am grateful to Warren Lehrer for spotting a very small view of a two-page spread of my 1993 book High Tension. It's an honor to be listed (visually at least) on the page where ArtStore explains what an artists' book is and a little of the history of the artists' book form.

The post is called The Infinite Variety of Artists' Books, and is reachable by clicking here.

Monday, February 2, 2015

'New Photo Book Narratives' at RayKo Gallery and 'Photobooks Today' Symposium at SFAI.

Two other exciting events are happening around the time of the CODEX Book Fair and Symposium in the Bay area, and I am lucky to be participating in both. The first is a show at RayKo Photo Center Gallery, run by Ann Jastrab, and located at 428 Third St. in San Francisco. The show is called The Visual Voice: New Photo Book Narratives, and is sponsored by PhotoAlliance. I have two photobooks in this show. A link to information about the show is here. The exhibition is on view from February 5 through March 3, 2015, with the opening reception on February 5 between 6 and 8 pm.

The other event in also sponsored by PhotoAlliance under the coordination of Steve Woodall, with the additional sponsorship of The San Francisco Art Institute, CODEX, and Blurb. It takes place at SFAI. On Friday, February 6th at 7:30 pm there will be two keynote addresses given, one by Clifton Meador and the other by Michael Light. This should be very interesting. Clif always gives terrific lectures and is one of the very best artists working using the photo artist' book form. I have long admired Michael Light's books like Full Moon and my favorite One Hundred Suns. It should be an interesting evening.

The next day, Saturday, there will be an all-day symposium at SFAI, starting at 9:00 am. Here is a link to the Photo Books Today Symposium. There will be a number of panels including ones titled Publishing Models, another called From Design Concept to Distribution (I am giving a presentation at this one) and Photobooks and Their Audience. There will be breakout sessions and at the end of the day a reception. I'm looking forward to it.

Many thanks to all of the folks at PhotoAlliance for putting these two very interesting events together, including Steve Woodall, Ann Jastrab, Luis Delgado, Toni Graves, John DeMerritt and many others.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

"Four Proposals For Reading" at Seager-Gray Gallery in Mill Valley, CA

The Big Deal biennial book fair CODEX is going to take place on February 8th through 11th, 2015 in the San Francisco Bay area. This is the fifth iteration. The first three took place on the Berkeley campus but the international fair outgrew the facilities on campus. Peter Koch, the founder of the event, which also holds a symposium, moved it two years ago to the Craneway Pavilion in Richmond, CA. Overall, the fair tends to be a little too much "Fine Press" bookwork for me, but there are many fantastic dealers and artists showing there. As the fair has grown over the years, the artists and dealers showing there from all over the world have really broadened and the event is absolutely worth going to and spending at least a day at, maybe even two days. Julie Chen has a great table, as do the master artists' book makers from Germany, Inés von Ketelhodt and Peter Malutzki, as well as many others terrific artists and dealers. Clif Meador's new book, published by John Merritt and his wife, will have it's own table where Clif will be signing and dedicating copies. My work will be at the Vamp & Tramp table.

Whenever CODEX happens, there are usually many other book-related events and shows happening around the Bay area. I am involved in two. The first is the show Four Proposals For Reading at the Seager-Gray Gallery in Mill Valley. The show displays the work of four close friends –who have known each other for many years– and decided to collaborate on a conceptual book show together. We have installed a little "reading room library" in one area of the gallery, where parts of our personal libraries are displayed as actual-size reproductions of key parts of our bookshelves. Another part of the gallery has new work especially created for this show.

This shows part of the "library" with my books on the right and Clif Meador's books on the left.

This is part of the main display area with Julie Chen and Barb Tetenbaum's work.

This is one of Clif Meador's new books, called Cotton Cloth, in front of specially printed cotton fabric.

Talking with Charles Hobson and Clif Meador in front of my book Reaper.

Above, Donna Seager asks the four of us some questions in front of the reception crowd.

The opening reception took place the evening before CODEX opens, Saturday, February 7th from 6-8 pm. For more information, please go here, or here.

Tomorrow I will add some other events in San Francisco that I am involved in during CODEX.

Friday, January 30, 2015

23 Sandy blog on Hedi Kyle, Claire van Vliet and Aunt Sallie's Lament

A week or two ago, Laura Russell, book artist and owner of 23 Sandy Gallery, posted an article about the influence of Hedi Kyle on artists' book structures. (Hedi Kyle is jurying the next big show at 23 Sandy Gallery in Portland.) Using Hedi's woven book structure, Claire Van Vliet created the wonderful book Aunt Sallie's Lament. She mentioned several people who then made an artists' book influenced by Hedi and by Claire, and I was one of them. My book was Nature Abhors.

It's an interesting post and a link to it is here.

CBAA Meeting and Symposium and Ed Ruscha

The College Book Art Association (CBAA) annual meeting and Symposium took place January 8th, 9th and 10th, 2015. The event was at the beautiful Scripps College campus, part of the Claremont Colleges in Claremont CA. The symposium was organized by Kitty Maryatt and was a huge success. It focussed on two exemplary works, Sonia Delauney's Transsibérien and Ed Rucsha's first book Twentysix Gasoline Stations.

On Thursday, January 8th, Kitty drove a van full of us out to the Getty Research Institute. There Marcia Reed, the Head Curator, took us behind the scenes and showed us original copies of the Sonia Delauney book and also Ed Ruscha's production mechanicals, photographs, and notebooks for Every Building on Sunset Strip. We were also shown some other amazing book works from the same year (1913) that Delauney published her book.

That is Marcia in the red jacket, and Kitty Maryatt in the gold-brocade jacket.

In addition to all of the mechanicals for the book, we were also able to look at Ed Ruscha's bluish-green accounting notebook where he broke out all of the costs for the production of Sunset Strip, and also a very long list of sales of the book and who he sent gift copies too.

This is detail of the mechanical board where Ruscha pasted the original photos along with the street numbers.

 This is the section where Ruscha meticulously broke down every cost for the production of the book.

Two pages of the section that lists sales and gifts to many people in the art world.

The copy of EBOSS that the Getty owns had belonged to Ed's wife and contains a funny inscription to her:

On Saturday, my panel colleagues, Kate Palmer Albers and Cynthia Marsh, and I each gave a presentation on three different viewpoints of Twentysix Gasoline Stations. My lecture was on the production of this iconic book.

That evening there was an interview panel with Ed Ruscha himself, moderated by Marcia Reed. The three of us were asked to provided three questions for Ruscha.