Obsession of Genius
On my second day attending the Codex International Book Fair 2013 in Richmond, I was struck by a common theme among the bookmakers: obsessiveness. In the essential drive to create the exquisitely crafted often oddly conceived books or tools, does a touch of the super human help, too?
The New Girl Press is the operation of the California book artist Georgette Freeman who was demonstrating the construction of small boxes at her exhibit table. To press and smooth the edges, she uses a standard bookmaking tool—a bone folder. But this was of her own making—from elk bone. She purchases/collects the animal parts, boils them for hours, hacks them into pieces, trims them, carves them and polishes them. The process, described on her site, is so laborious and time-consuming she can’t or won’t sell them. They are beautiful examples of form and function.
Why shouldn’t phobia be the muse? The phobias of the Russian book artist Dmitry Sayenko was the catalyst for his book. “The ABC of Fears: The Famous People’s Phobias” is boldly illustrated in his woodcuts and linocuts on his handmade paper. Among the well-researched gallery of famous scaredy-cats is Bram Stroker. Yep, the creator of the famous Count Dracula, had chiroptophobia, the fear of bats. The bald Lenin must have avoided mirrors for he had peladophobia, the terror of bald-headed people. Stalin had pogonophobia: fear of beards.
The German artist Gisel Oberbeck of Edition Go cuts detailed shapes into paper for her layered concertina books. I loved seeing traces of her faint pencil lines that guided her blade. No subject is daunting for her, whether nature or people. When the pieces are dramatically lit, as the one shown here from her website, the shadows add more layers to the complex art.
Soho, a district in Beijing, is interpreted in the layered cityscape with its intricate silkscreen print cutouts by the Chinese artist Leilei Guo.The 42 leaves of the book spiral open around a metal screw post binding. The feat of design and engineering is astonishing. Through her unique art, Guo comments on the sameness of architecture across the globe. “This is the perfect metaphor for what’s happening: our world gets bigger but our individual differences are fading.”
“Nest-SoHo” 2009 (4.75 x 10.75 x 1.25)
In one large exhibition hall I took a fascinating trip around the globe. I pored over the books of artists and designers from Canada, China, Great Britain, France, Italy, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Germany, Russia, Israel and here in the United States. Each work displayed at CODEX 2013, shows an individual point of view that enlarges my own.