What The Book?
An embroidered scroll emanating from a fat papier-mâché kitten, a pop-up dungeon diorama, phone books twisted and turned into spiral waves, a flipbook of armpits bound in dirty tee-shirt cotton. In "What The Book?," over forty artists show works that explore the ideas and craft surrounding the book.
Entering the warm main space of the Flux Factory, there are multiple living room-like stations, complete with armchairs and coffee tables covered with small paper books. Not only does it look like one could settle into a full day of browsing, but people actually are. Some Fluxers sat with viewers and had long afternoon discussions. The topic under discussion (I could not help overhear) seemed to mirror the inclusive community of a library composed of smaller voices, in contrast to the normal authoritative hardcover breed.
This cultural thinktank atmosphere is something that the Flux Factory, a gem nestled in an industrial area of Queens, continues to foster in always unique and interesting ways. Past projects range from an edible art show to a Flux Factory member who offered walks home from Grand Central Station as an alternative to riding the subway. What The Book? continues the trajectory of these innovative projects by pushing the boundaries of display and expanding the conception of the art object.
Of the many books shown, Liz Zanis’s “do you think i could borrow a box” veers the farthest afield in format from the traditional. This mini storage box contains flattened rooms made out of balsam wood with flattened furniture that fits into the rooms like puzzle pieces. Each piece is inscribed with a sentence on the back, which seems to be an excerpt from a larger personal narrative. Though distant from a book in form, this piece shows how narrative can create a type of space, and how books can be seen as the containers of space.
Leif Parsons and Elena Wen also explore the book as a form, in particularly, the way in which its form changes. In “Untitled,” a mass of negative space is revealed as you go through the book; it is literally cut out of the pages, grows in size as you turn the page.
One of the show’s highlights, “Making Stuff and Doing Things” by Kyle Bravo, is a plastic case containing a cassette tape and two small booklets. It lets the viewer experience two weeks of sights and sounds from the daily routine of Kyle Bravo. Each of the booklets chronicles two weeks of the artist’s life with a drawing of an object labeled with the time and date on each page. The author’s self absorbed obsessiveness is charming and ironic in this mock-therapeutic format.
Finally, Kerry Downey’s “Plans for Urban Outfitters” is a book of beautiful drawings where each page can be enjoyed on its own. The collection can be seen as an exploration of how time and sequence can affect works on paper like words in a poem.
Center for Book ArtsBy Megan N. Liberty
MARCH 2023 | ArTonic
Wandering around the flower district of Manhattan, you may be surprised to see a green flag hanging high above the flowers, signaling the location of the Center for Book Arts (CBA) on the third floor, where it has been located since 1999. As artist and designer Ben Denzer recently wrote to me, Despite coming and going to CBA all the time, I can never really get over how much of an unexpected gem it is. The fact that this book utopia is hiding on the third floor of a random building on 27th street has always made me look at all NYC buildings as if each might contain delightful secrets inside.
Xaviera Simmons: Crisis Makes a Book ClubBy William Corwin
NOV 2022 | ArtSeen
In the comprehensive survey exhibition Crisis Makes a Book Club, Xaviera Simmons explains with brutal clarity the need for real gestures; land acknowledgments without Land Back will not do, and there can be no equality without reparations. As the title calls out, starting book clubs to read the literature of the oppressed without yielding the social and economic capital demanded in those very texts means nothing.
from The Nature BookBy Tom Comitta
MARCH 2023 | Fiction
Darwin discovered that evolution proceeds with neither direction nor purpose. The natural world is largely indifferent to plan or plot. Yet we, story-seeking creatures that we are, see the world around us as more completed, more accomplished, than what came before. Tom Comitta’s The Nature Book explores these tensions by stitching together hundreds of fragments in the history of literary writing about the natural worldthis excerpt alone is a collage of ninety-seven novels ranging from Hawthorne to Arundhati Roy. Though the text of The Nature Book is a polyphonic effort of writers, humans are absent from the actual story. In this seamless anthology, we forget that the experience of reading about nature is mediated by human voices and, when suspended in the text, succumb to the magical illusion that we are perceiving the world in itself.
Kara Walker: Prince McVeigh and the Turner Blasphemies & The Book of HoursBy Susan Harris
DEC 21-JAN 22 | ArtSeen
Installed in the first of the two back galleries of Sikkema Jenkins are several suites of modestly scaled drawings from the series Book of Hours. Referencing medieval Christian books of hours, the drawings on view reinforce the primacy of privacy. Viewers bear witness to the outpouring of stream-of-conscious thoughts, feelings, and reactions that Walker channels through line and liquid media onto paper.