Saturday, October 30, 2010
Paul Johnson, Paper Pop Up Magician, made an appearance at the Corcoran Museum last night for a talk about his incredible books. The audience was delighted as every container he opened from his suitcase was a magical delight as he swished open book after book like pulling rabbits from a hat. The best part about it was that he passed his books through the audience and actually let you touch them! Wow! When was the last time you got to touch and feel an artist book?
Paul Johnson is someone you don't want to miss at the Book Arts Fair this coming weekend. I promise he will let you touch his books!
Thursday, October 28, 2010
See BAF Steering Committee Chair and Pyramid's Artistic Director Gretchen Schermerhorn discuss the upcoming action with Philippa, while Executive Director, Jose Dominguez, sets the context nicely.
Monday, October 25, 2010
Paul Johnson, Book Artist/Paper Engineer
The Corcoran College of Art + Design and the Graduate Art and the Book program is proud to present a visit with paper engineer artist, Paul Johnson.
The lecture will start at 5:30 pm in the auditorium on October 29 at the Armand Hammer Auditorium of the Corcoran Museum of Art. There will be a question and answer period directly following the talk. The lecture is open to the at 500 17th Street, NW, DC.
Corcoran population and the general public.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Kelly: What's the story on Abecedarian Gallery...how long have you been around, what's your niche or specialty, and anything else you'd like us to know?
Alicia: Abecedarian Gallery opened in November 2007. The first location was a small room in the back of a building that housed several other galleries and artists' studios. In July of 2008 Abecedarian moved to a larger store front in the 910 Arts Building, a green-built complex designed and built as a creative community center. The gallery has two exhibition spaces. The smaller of the two is the Reading Room where artists' books are always on view. The larger space hosts rotating exhibitions that, while not specifically artists' books, have qualities of sequence, narrative or interactivity that are somehow related to artists' books.
Kelly: Can you give us an example of the kinds of things going on at Abecedarian this fall - perhaps things you're particularly excited about?
Alicia: Currently on view in the main gallery is a solo exhibition by a Denver area artist Mia Semingson. The exhibit includes 366 photographs taken by Mia during a year-long project, presented in 12 accordion fold books, each book presenting a month of photographs. Also on display are larger prints from the series. In the Reading Room is Photo Book Works, an international exhibition of artists' books with photography as a primary element (excluding SPODS) that was juried by Mia. Images of work from current and past shows are available both as print documents and via link from the gallery website. Coming up in January is the student/emerging artist grant exhibition. Abecedarian has been setting aside funds for this award for several months. I hope the gallery is able to continue offering similar opportunities to student/emerging artists. The decision to continue will be determined by the level of interest in the award and my success in securing funds for it in future.
Kelly: What's the Denver art scene like and where do you see your gallery in it?
Alicia: Denver has a flourishing arts scene particularly in the performative (theater and music) arts. The Art District of Santa Fe, has been identified as one of the busiest and well-attended of the 450+ grass-roots districts in the nation. This means that Abecedarian has opportunity to increase exposure to a wide audience of gallery visitors, many of whom are unfamiliar with the artists' book genre. This part of the country is attractive to many because of the recreation opportunities so in Denver cultural aspects aren't as well-regarded as in other cities of similar size. I don't view this as a negative. The result is that I put more energy towards education and community service than I might were Abecedarian located in another city. As the only gallery in the area with an emphasis on artists' books, the gallery functions as an unofficial center for resource sharing, education and opportunity in the book arts.
Kelly: What are you working on in your own art these days?
Alicia: I have three student interns right now, and we mostly work on the design and production of limited editions. Hot off the press is Theia Mania - a multi-piece collaborative project that includes a sound element. More than twenty other individuals helped me with this project. I continue with my ongoing project Lovely and Amazing, which is a mixed-media series including books, boxes and three-dimensional collage inspired by and fabricated from an inherited archive of biological specimens, handwritten documents, drawings and photographs.
Alicia: Although it looks like an exciting schedule of presentations and workshops, I'll be spending my time there showing off the treasures from Abecedarian that I have selected for the fair. I will be bringing prints and books from several artists whose work I represent including Alice Austin, Emily Martin, Shu-Ju Wang, Tonia Bonnell, Johanna Mueller, Pati Scoby, Heidi Zednik and Jill Bergman.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Monday, October 11, 2010
Kelly: What’s the story on Vamp & Tramp...what do you do, how long have you been around, what’s your niche or specialty, and anything else you’d like us to know?
Vamp & Tramp: We began Vamp & Tramp, Booksellers, LLC in 1995, selling modern firsts, mainly 20th-century literary and mystery first editions. This was in the early days of internet bookselling. We had a by-appointment site, which no one visited, and tried every way we could think of to sell books – none very successful. Three or four years later, I stumbled across Ron King's Circle Press edition of Antony & Cleopatra, and was hooked. We began carrying more and more contemporary fine press and artists' books. At about that time, we opened an open shop in Birmingham, with modern firsts, artists' books, fine press books, children's books, Alabama history books – anything we could think of to sell and pay the monthly rent. In December 2003, we had run out of money to lose, and were presented with a chance to acquire Califia Books.
Vicky and I decided to put our time, energy, and resources into what really excited us – contemporary fine press and artists' books. In 6 weeks we closed our open shop, divested ourselves of 4,500 more or less rare books and art works (by the end, we were half art gallery and half book gallery), and took to the road. The acquisition of Califia meant mostly contacts with many new (to us) book artists and access to some hitherto unplumbed institutional buyers. And because of the nature of the books – the physical aspects being so central – we decided that the only way to do this successfully and in a way ethically would be to take the books to the potential customers. Besides, the road trip aspect was fun, or seemed as if it would be fun. So while we did is a sense acquire Califia, we incorporated parts, namely artist and customer contacts, into what we were already doing. What really changed for us was the chance to devote ourselves full time to driving the books across the country.
Kelly: What do you look for in an artist’s work when you’re considering representing them for consignment?
Vamp & Tramp: Our first criteria tends to be what we refer to the as the WOW factor. The not-so-cute names is a distillation of what Bill was feeling when he saw that first Ron King book – wow, wow, wow, just wow. It’s an excitement, an electricity, a visceral sense of contact and connection. This doesn’t necessarily mean a big wow. There are all kinds of wows. Both of us don’t have to experience the wow connection with the book but at least one of us. Next we have to believe we can place it with a collection. Sometimes we are very attracted to a work but realize that we are probably not going to be able to place it. Although nominally we represent fine press and artists’ books, the majority of our placements are based on subject content. We place far more books because of their content than because of anything else.
Kelly: Is there anything in particular that an artist can do to help you be in a position to better sell or offer their work?
Vamp & Tramp: An artist should have not only a general artist statement but a statement about the specific work. A back-story is always helpful – why the work came about, how it developed. It doesn’t have to be pages and pages; just something that will better help us and the collector to understand more about the book. These stories help immeasurably in helping others connect with the work, and open the door to possible purchase. For us, it helps if the back-stories are written. The older we get the harder it is to remember all of the details.
Kelly: Can you give us an example of the kinds of things going on with Vamp & Tramp this fall – perhaps things you’re particularly excited about?
Vamp & Tramp: Our fall travel schedule is usually busy and this year more so. We’ll be on the road almost continuously from Labor Day until Thanksgiving: we’ll be across the US to San Diego, up the coast to Seattle, back to Birmingham, to Toronto, and then to the Northeast and Middle Atlantic states (on the trip that will bring us to Pyramid Atlantic). One of the fun things we get to do is spread the word about book arts and artists’ books. This comes in the form of presentations as well as new exhibition and book fair venues. In October we will be participating in a book fair in Toronto. While this is an antiquarian book fair we hope to make contact with collectors and collections that we can introduce them to the work of the artists we represent. This is our first foray into Canada so we are really looking forward to going across the border.
Kelly: What are you looking forward to seeing or doing at the Pyramid Atlantic Book Arts Fair?
Vamp & Tramp: We always look forward to seeing old friends and making new ones. Feeling the energy of the artists always reinvigorates us.
Friday, October 1, 2010
Gretchen: How did you start making tools?
Elissa: I was a metals major at Moore College of Art in Philadelphia in the 1970's and realized that the best tools are the ones you make yourself. When I went to work in conservation I saw the need for tools for boxmaking that were smaller than the ones available. I designed the 90-90-45- degree tool (nicknamed the "Nevada" by Garry Harrison) in 1994 and have been making them ever since. The triangles and other shapes came along when book folks asked for special sizes and shapes. Each tool is hallmarked with a wren and "WHT" which stands for Wren Haven Tools. The brass I use is soft brass which means that your knife won't be damaged if you go off square while cutting against it. There aren't alot of women tool makers out there, and I am excited that Shanna Leino will also be at the fair. She is an excellent metalworker!
Elissa: The papers started to develop as an extension of my interest in watercolor painting. Over the years I've studied the various historical decoration techniques as part of my conservation work. I enjoy mixing techniques from differernt traditions such as block printing and paste decoration. Recently I have been working on papers that I coat with a pigmented clay ground that gives a base for block printing with mica, as in Japanese karakame papers. There are many new pigments available now for us to work with. For example, the irgazines, which are intense and very lightfast. My next project is developing papers with the irgazine pigments for a six panel folding screen.
Elissa: The traditional Japanese folding screen, or byobu, presents an image in its perspective context. I like the way the angles of the screen allow for slight differences in the way an image is confronted, especially when the pigments used are irridescent like mica. In my screens I try to have a variation of the design in each panel so that the viewer sees the individual panels as a fluid image. I also have to admit that the assembly of the screens is an appealing process. You end up with an extremely sturdy but lightweight construct, which is the result of layering differerent types of Japanese papers over the wooden core.
Elissa: I suppose I am a traditionalist and look to those artists who embraced aesthetics along with sound knowledge of their materials. This is the conservator in me speaking-- I enjoy art that is meant to be transitory, but I am certain that most artworks produced today will not survive to be 100 or even 50 years old because of materials choices. In the book arts there is a much better awareness of the nature of our materials, and we tend to appreciate the idea of longevity more than our colleagues working in other media.