Artists butcher books, transmogrifying them into sculptures lovely and deep
Reviewed by Wayne Alan Brenner, Fri., Dec. 10, 2010
1700 S. Lamar #318, 326-9102
Through Jan. 22
Butchery is an art, or at least a bladed craft, that can lacerate whatever membrane separates the realm of art from the quotidian world.
Writing is an art, and about that declaration there is little argument. Another craft that might be considered art: making books. Novels, collections of short stories, volumes of verse or prose or more prosaic palaver lovingly locked into concrete existence with paper and ink and diverse methods of binding.
There are butchers loose in the library, my darling. Butchers, yes, and not even St. Francis de Sales can stay their vorpal blades. Count this among your blessings: These butchers are true artists. See their new creations, deconstructions not of texts but of the physical objects themselves, at Studio2Gallery's "Library Foliage" show: books carved and compromised, fractured and framed, transmogrified to sculpture at least as deep and beautiful as the narratives they once offered.
John Mark Sager is the curator and featured artist of this show, and, though many of the other artists' works are superlative, it's not difficult to see why. The largest of Sager's works in this show, Hagia Sophia, is a complex structure of surpassing beauty, composed of books, cast iron, printing blocks, toy blocks, bits of calcite, and more; it's like some ancient gravestone marking the death of printed wisdom with a skill that brings printing's disparate elements to new life. Sager has a suite of much smaller works, too, including The Voice of the City, in which he's taken an eponymous collection by O. Henry and, with the addition of steel, turned it into a curving urban landscape upon which stands a small, lone figure. It's simple and breathtaking.
Damian Priour, he of the Global Chair Project, hasn't wielded his cutting tools on a standing volume of paper and glue but has employed his signature combination of glass and limestone to create a new book object. Key, Volume 1 is composed of thin pages of glass encompassed by thick covers of native stone – the sort of thing, we imagine, used as a guest book where Bifröst, the rainbow bridge, enters the Norse gods' home of Asgard.
The assemblage called Bad Idea, by James Michael Starr, is a tiny book, its dark cover and grimy pages spread as if midflight, placed in exile, imprisoned in the middle of a tall and delicate cage of iron.
There are many more works here – by Jessica Maffia, Kathy Van Torne, James B. Campbell, and others – and they may well lock you in a cage of fascination for long pleasurable minutes, providing food for thought as you wander, like a character in a compelling story about the meat of literature, this bookishly holy abattoir.