Saturday, October 25, 2008

Book Dummies show

This is a not-to-be-missed show. It's in a place that is unfamiliar to many in NYC, but it is worth the time to find it and take a look. The show explores the relationship between an artist book and the artistic process. Specifically, curator Victor Sira wanted to see if making dummies to prepare photobooks for publication was a process that changed the art itself. Also, in a related idea, he wanted to see if working on the dummies created unexpected art objects in the dummies themselves.

If this show is any indicator, the answer to both questions is yes. I quote from the show's press release:

"Book Dummies" is an exhibition that gives insight into the process of making a photo book. It reveals the many layers of the process, giving a step-by-step view of the approach used by the photographers whose book dummies make up the exhibition. Through a selection of dummies, photographs, installations and videos, "Book Dummies" brings together some 50 works by 7 artists. The objective of the exhibition is to explore and give equal weight to the process of making a book, as much to the final outcome of this process: the book object itself. The question of what went into the making of each book supersedes the question of what it is."

Artists included in the show are:
Morten Andersen
Stephanie Cardon
Yuichi Hibi
Leigh Ledare
Esther Levine
Pax Paloscia
Victor Sira

While there are many pleasures to be found in this exhibit, I was completely taken with one piece that was neither photo nor book. Mr. Sira included a framed cutting board from his darkroom. It was displayed partly as an artifact of the hard work that goes into the photographic process but it took on a life of its own. Like the sharpening stone of some master sword maker or the well worn sauté pan of a professional chef, this tool has taken on the marks and scars of so much considered use that it becomes sculpture itself. With it's grid lines and ink smudges, Agnes Martin and Cy Twombly both came to mind. This is a sublimely beautiful piece.

Not well-known to NY audiences, it was great to see Stephanie Cardon's beautiful yet intellectually rigorous New England landscapes on display. Though I had seen her work in dummies in Europe, the contrast between her work in book form and how she chooses to display it on the wall illuminated the soul of the show; photobooks show a side of an artist that a gallery cannot. Don't miss this. It's a treat and unlike anything in NYC right now.

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