This Is Not a Book

Artists reimagine the book as an art object in group exhibition 'This is Not a Book: Chapter 2.'

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Jul 26 2016, 3:05pm

Jacqueline Rush Lee, Anthologia. From the Collection of Jim and Kelly Polisson.

One can still do a lot with plain old paper, as the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA)’s This is Not a Book: Chapter 2 exhibition proves. It contains works that push the limit of what it means to work with book art. In some pieces, viewers might be able to still read the words or recognize the book’s original shape. But in others, the book has become another object altogether—not one meant to be read, but one meant to be reconsidered within a new context.

The first chapter of the show took place in 2001 in collaboration with photographer David Pace. This year, the ICA decided to work with Donna Seager of Seager Gray Gallery, who has extensive experience working with book art.

“[Seagar] has presented book art exhibitions for over 10 years now, and she has a keen eye for contemporary artists working with the medium of the book,” says Patricia Cariño, curator and director of public programs at the ICA. “This show presents works from 28 artists that Donna has worked with in the past and is a new set of artists interested in manipulating the book in nuanced ways.”

Order and Chaos by Arian Dylan. Courtesy of the Artist and Seager Gray Gallery.

The artists’ concepts and backgrounds differ vastly, with each maker bringing a different interpretation to the gesture of transforming paper. The viewers’ own relationship to books also inform each piece, as they approach with their own personal histories and literary preferences.

“Great art often inspires multiple associations,” Seager tells The Creators Project. “The associations people have to books run deep, both for their rich content and physicality of the object.”

Seagar wanted to make sure that the show reflected a significant variety of artistic approaches to paper. “We wanted to hit as many chords as possible from handmade books that break out of the traditional codex by artists like Julie Chen, Marie Dern and Danielle Giudici Wallis to more conceptual references to books like those of Lisa Kokin and Jessica Drenk,” says Seagar.  “Many of the works were included in our exhibition at the Brooklyn Public Library, Ten Years of Artists’ Books, which was a celebration of the ten year anniversary of our annual Art of the Book exhibition that takes place every May.”

Passage by Andrew Hayes. Courtesy of the Artist and Seager Gray Gallery.

The show includes work from artists like Sarah Brown, Sandi Miot, Valerie Buess, Doug Beube, Brian Dettmer and many others. Each artist brings their own creativity to a medium that has survived the ages while allowing us to communicate with each other.

The show is not only a great introduction to book art, it’s a good opportunity to discover artists from all over the world. The exhibition features work from artists hailing from Germany, South Africa, Canada, and Korea.

As Seager explains, there are so many distinct textures within the show that make it memorable. It’s in “the combination of textures, the beauty of edges and the purity of paper” that a viewer can get lost again and remember that digital tools and materials aren’t the only means for creating intricate works of art.

This is Not a Book: Chapter 2 is on view until September 11. Learn more about the exhibition here.

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