humor: The’s See No Evil (altered book, 2010).
International Airport Gallery, through Jan. 9, 2011
Book extinction might be a real possibility but the written
word is clearly in no danger of disappearing. The exhibition
The Imaged Word offers a contemplation of the word
made physical. From literary works to the actual physical
form of a book, each artist takes written language, in its
various forms, as his or her inspiration. Works on display
range from two-dimensional photographs and paintings to three-dimensional
sculpture and installation; each presents a different interpretation
of the theme.
Books appear frequently in this exhibition. In the age of
e-book readers, creative uses for old fashioned books have
become commonplace. They can be found as planters, decorative
props, or even, ironically, as bookshelves and e-book covers.
Scott McCarney works with books that have been discarded,
deaccessioned, or found in thrift stores. His Last Lines
of Poetry, which dangles above the stairwell, is a reference
book that has been cut up line by line so that its contents
spill forth in a riotous jumble from its hard cover. McCarney
has altered this out-of-date book so that the massive amount
of information contained in it has been visually transformed,
the words perceptible yet indecipherable.
Robert The also uses discarded and thrift store books as material
for his sculptures. He gives these books a second life by
cutting various shapes from them. For See No Evil,
he has carved a scarab from the spine of the book of the same
name. The scarab acts as wry commentary on the contents of
this book—photographic portraits of powerful people from New
Like The, Aaron T. Stephan is interested in the contents of
books and the visual associations they create. In Building
Bridges Stephan has created an impressive architectural
illusion using mirrors and thousands of books. In a darkened
space the books, which have been assembled into classic arches,
appear to repeat into infinity. This piece literally speaks
volumes about the ways in which books connect readers to a
multiplicity of ideas, both fictional and factual.
Three other artists included in the exhibition further explore
and celebrate the visual and associative capacity of books.
Fern Apfel uses ink and collage to affectionately portray
the books that have been passed down in her family for generations.
Each still life is a group portrait organized by shape, color,
character, or title. Like Apfel, Fawn Potash makes photographic
portraits using old books found in the library of an 1870’s
schoolhouse where she lived for 20 years. These worn volumes
are props for her studies of balance, imperfection, and ultimately
Also interested in vintage books is Gayle Johnson. Her subject
matter is equally nostalgic yet far more quotidian. By meticulously
recreating the covers of romance novels, including the creases
and dog ears that occur with age and use, Johnson considers
the kitschiness and popularity of this particular genre.
Rather than use physical books as material or subject, the
other works in the exhibition focus more on the written word.
William Ransom’s two sculptures are inspired by the writings
of specific authors. How High’s the Water Mama is a
sculpture made of salvaged wood that is paired with a quote
from Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac; and Hold
Back Hold Forth includes an excerpt from T.C. Boyle’s
short story Ash Monday.
Amy Podmore’s sculpture is also accompanied by text, here
in the form of poems by the author Trudy Ames that respond
to two of the sculptures. The third piece was inspired by
Ames’ poem “Community Service.” Barbara Todd and Paul Katz
are similarly influenced by poetry, Todd by Paul Celan’s and
Katz by William Wordsworth’s. Todd’s Bloom consists
of fragments of Celan’s poems floating on one of the gallery’s
glass walls. Nearby is Tongues/trees/books/brooks/ sermons/stones,
a wall covered in stone shapes, a recurrent image for Todd
who collects stones like she collects bits of language and
speech. Paul Katz’s The Prelude is an installation
of three-dimensional objects that have been covered by Wordsworth’s
lengthy poem of the same name.
The visual patterns in Katz’s piece are echoed in a group
of notebooks by Gabe Brown. Rather than words, she uses repetitive
lines that mimic the rhythmic regularity of written language.
In other notebooks, Brown, like Todd, collects fragments of
language, song titles, and overheard bits of conversations.
She refers to these when she creates her paintings which themselves
carry a visual code of color, shape, and line.
Imaged Word is an engrossing exhibition that presents
the work of a disparate group of artists who combine the visual
and the textual in their work in order to explore the evocative
potential of words, language, and books.