Apr 192011
Hidden Clue by Sarah Wallace Scott at Abecedarian Gallery

Abecedarian Gallery in Denver, Colorado is currently hosting Artists’ Book Cornucopia II, a juried exhibition. There is an online catalogue.

Needless to say, I was quite taken with this particular itemHidden Clue by Sarah Wallace Scott. Says Sarah,

“In my process of working with paper I found that I could make faux taxidermy using only paper. The problem was that no one could tell the difference. I tore out the pages of a used book and started attaching them in the same way as the other paper to make a more obvious paper chipmunk…”

Paper chipmunk taxidermy aside, I should add that there is work from quite a few interesting people in this show, including fellow blogger Anna Mavromatis (who has blogs about her book art as well as more ephemeral matters).

Nov 072010
All Trains Go to King’s Cross St Pancras ©2001
The other day I discovered that one of my old Underground paper mosaic collages is being used in an interesting online exhibition at the musée historique environnement urbain.
This link will take you to the beginning of the London section of the virtual exhibit. If you roll your mouse over the pictures and follow the arrow that appears on the right, you’ll eventually get to All Trains Go to King’s Cross St. Pancras. It’s being used to illustrate the tube-like nature of the deep level tunnelsThe main site  for the virtual musée (in English or en Français) has links to all kinds of exhibitions on aspects of urban life.
By way of background, the picture was based on a photo that I took several years ago at Manor House Station on the Piccadilly Line. The title comes from the announcement on the electronic sign. They’ve since “refurbished” the station. I haven’t seen the cleaned up version in person, although judging by the glossy, bright pictures, I suspect I wouldn’t actually like what they’ve done.
Nov 042010

I’ve been pondering ways of conveying the progression of time and movement in books. I was recently re-skimming parts of Keith Smith’s Structure of the Visual Book. He talks about how the structures of artists’ books relate to those in “music, poetry, story-telling and cinema.” He then cautions:

Carryover of past concepts is often inappropriate… Revolutionary ideas must be realized when starting to work in a new medium. The basic problem in making books is approaching it as if it were many single pictures, and it is not . . . This error comes from working in one medium, and carrying over principles to a new process, rather than discovering what is unique about the new medium.

As someone who used to work largely in single pictures, this is something that I’ve found to be both exhilarating and vexing about making artist’s books.

I was listening to a talk that Bea Nettles gave at Duke University (thanks to a link posted on the Book Arts List). She mentioned how in one of her books she partly conveyed the slow, subtle process of aging by gradually transforming the background color of the book’s pages. As the book progresses and the subject grows older, each page becomes ever so subtly more purple. By the end, the viewer realizes that the pages have become deep purple, hinting at how a person almost imperceptibly ages from day to day, slowly evolving into an older person. Now that’s the sort of thing that makes a book unlike a painting.

Jul 212010
From bbc.co.uk/news/magazine

The BBC News Magazine has an article on the importance of typefaces.

To most people, typefaces are pretty insignificant. Yet to their devotees, they are the most important feature of text, giving subliminal messages that can either entice or revolt readers, says Tom de Castella.

When Avatar, the biggest grossing movie of all time was released, one section of the audience was immediately outraged . . .”

Jul 052010

Volvelles are paper wheel charts with rotating parts. The modern ones, such as those reproduced in Jessica Helfand’s Reinventing the Wheel, are enjoyable. But there’s something so captivating about the ones from previous centuries that were incorporated into books. These were used for serious stuff like astronomy, medicine and fortune-telling. They were computing devices in their day. To think that the modern movable book has such exalted ancestry.

When I posted a picture recently of a volvelle from Petrus Apianus’s 1529 Cosmographia, it whetted my appetite for more. Here are a couple of other examples from the Cosmographia.

A spread from the Library of Congress website, showing the positions of the sun, moon and planets.
According to the Lambeth Palace Library Exhibition catalogue, Petrus Apianus (1495-1552) was a mathematician and a pioneer in astronomical and geographical instrumentation. The Cosmosgraphia was a European best-seller. It appeared over the next century in as many as 45 editions in 4 languages, printed in 7 cities by at least 18 printers. It contained four volvelles.

Here are a few links to historical volvelles:

The following page from the Astronomicum Caesareum by Petrus Apianus (1540) is thanks to the Wikipedia page on Volvelles:

The following is a “cipher encoding machine” from around 1600, from an exhibition of manuscripts that was at the Getty:
The University of Oklahoma has an example or two:
Galileo Collection

From the University of Oklahoma’s Galileo Collection

As well as the British Library:
Volvelle from "Medical miscellany, including an astronomical calendar" (approx 1490).The British Library.

Volvelle from “Medical miscellany, including an astronomical calendar” (approx 1490).The British Library.

Doesn’t it just make you want to start cutting and assembling circles (or at least drool over photos of old manuscripts)?