Monday, January 10, 2011

Delaware Book Art Show Is The Bomb

By Nancy Mattoon

Doug Beube.
Blast: If You See Something, Say Something, 2008.
Altered book, wire, wax, canvas bag.
(All Images Courtesy of Delaware Center For The Contemporary Arts.)

What is the future of the book? That's a question on the minds of writers, publishers, printers, librarians, booksellers, book buyers, book collectors, book lovers, and readers these days. And add one more group to that already long list: book artists. The Delaware Center For The Contemporary Arts (DCCA) opened its first ever book art show, The Book: A Contemporary View, on December 22, 2010 in response to that very question.

Tobi Kahn.
LUNA, 2010.
28 individual acrylic on handmade paper paintings,
Acrylic on wood.

The rise of e-books, Kindles, Nooks, and iPads, led the curator of the show, J. Susan Isaacs to ponder whether the currently ubiquitous paper book might soon become a museum piece. "I've been thinking about that quite a lot and I think that's entirely possible, that books will become rare again in a way they were when they first emerged," Isaacs told Betsy Price of DelawareOnline. "I'm not a futurist, so who knows. But I can say that I listen to audio books and my students are starting to purchase their textbooks in digital format because it's less expensive. It's a really interesting question."

Melissa Jay Craig.
(S)Edition 2007-2009.
Handmade Abaca paper, processed by the artist.

Isaacs decided to create a book art exhibit that covers the waterfront. She contacted specific book artists whose work was familiar to her, but also issued a call to artists worldwide, even placing an open invitation on Facebook. The only requirement was that the works in the show had to be considered book art. "Because this is the first ever book show we've done, instead of doing a narrow theme like accordion books or a topic like 'response to nature,' I chose instead to do a show that's very broad," Isaacs says.

Susan Weinz.
X, 2009.
Screen printed book Rives Heavyweight paper;
'two sewn as one'; cover stock (10 point library board).

The result is that the ten-year-old museum, located in Delaware's largest city of Wilmington, has mounted a show of pieces from nearly 50 contemporary book artists, including work from Taiwan and Cuba. Every form of book art imaginable is featured, such as pop-up books, portfolio books, accordion books, flag books, deconstructed books, and even sculptures made of carved books.

Blanka Amezkua.
Hera, 2010.
Intervened recycled comic book,
acetone, nail markings and nail polish.

The DCCA will also be holding a two-day symposium in March 2011, focusing "on the book as object, subject, and concept." In addition to participation by several of the artists whose work in on display in the exhibition, speakers at The Art of the Book in the 21st Century include Mark Dimunation, Chief of the Rare Book and Special Collections Division at the Library of Congress. The keynote speaker at the symposium is internationally known book artist Buzz Spector, who is also Dean of the College and Graduate School of Art in the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis.

Colette Fu.
DCCA Pop-Up Book, 2010.
Ultrachrome Ink Prints mounted onto cardstock,
Bound in Iris Cloth.

The show even prompted the DCCA to purchase its first ever piece for a permanent collection. Philadelphia-based artist Colette Fu created a pop-up book from a photo-montage of the museum's modernist building and its artist's palette website logo. "We're not a collecting museum," said curator Isaacs. "But we own this now."

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