Scattering beauty around campus in our first month back is Angela Lorenz, who is making her mark with two distinct exhibits. The first, covered by this paper last week, is a series of mosaics rethinking ancient Roman artwork. The second, refreshing in its form and varied in its scope, is a collection of book arts.
“Book arts” can hold a meaning similar to “art books” — at least, as much as it holds a meaning that’s very different — though really both terms are misleading and unclear. The exhibit, to clarify, is a series of collections of artworks in various media that resemble the books on nearby shelves.
Situated in the glass display cases encircling the main reading room, the work is scattered within its vessels to artistic effect. There is a smattering of assorted small units (pins, cloth partially covered in penciled sketches, other items that are more difficult to identify) labeled “Process Materials” that, presumably, played some important role in the artistic process. In some instances, the part they play in the finished compositions is visible and obvious. Other times it isn’t really clear, but any of these concerns about the point A to point B connection of the Materials to the finished work will likely be cleared up in the artist’s talk today — that’s date of publication — at 4:30 P.M. in McCabe.
The most interesting aspect of the work, taken together and outside of the work itself, is its variety. There is a wide-reaching gamut of influences, methods and artistic statements involved in each piece.
Each book has, like a “real” book, an accompanying (or perhaps underlying) text. They range from original long-ish verse poems to a few bits of cautionary text. To properly visualize this idea consider two examples. First there is the piece “On Seats of Learning,” a work done on folding cloth inspired by the historical phenomenon of lectors reading aloud to Cuban cigar rollers. On the other end of the spectrum lies the work “Lay Text,” which is a volume of latex sheets that carry on them a few rules and reminders about the nature and state of art. One is a longer form, more traditional poem while the other is a terse experimental work, showcasing the diverse range of literary forms incorporated in the exhibit.
While a library may seem the most fitting place to display a gallery of book art, it also proves to have its disadvantages. In some instances the case is stifling, preventing the work from being accessed in its fullest capacity. Take, for example, a piece titled CAGE: 4 Notes in 33 Variations. It is a small music box that, if cranked, will perform the notes C, A, G and E in order and it is perhaps not the best thing to have in a library. But even with its full functionality removed it is beautiful, with a uniquely economical approach to its artistic reach. Like much of the work in the exhibit the music box is small and sort of mysterious, accompanied by a written explanation that feels inadequate given the sheer complexity of each piece.
Like her earlier exhibit each of the pieces carries an academic component. They are all rife with complicated historical and cultural reference and any number of attached messages. Take for instance the previously mentioned “On Seats of Learning’ or “Lambe Latin,” a biography of authors Charles and Mary Lamb that offers a captivating analysis of their historical period through quotes on textiles, among other predominantly visual resources.
Sometimes, the themes and influences ventured into the territory of natural history. The work effectively covers the relationship between humans and nature, historically and in contemporary life. “Deconstructing the Pyramids in Nummulitic Limestone” and “Ornamental Deciduous Trees” offer a combination of textuality and tactility that merge into an inventive visual investigation.
The scope of the pieces is interestingly varied. Consider the collection “Soap Story,” a book that chronicles the life of an Italian woman, which according to Lorenz “reads like a fairy tale, or a soap opera in six installments.” The text is hidden in bars of soap and can only be revealed through a process outlined in the bit of text that lies beside the splayed components of the work. While the material construction and physical form are both interesting and possibly the primary focus of the piece, it is also of note how Lorenz is able to use the same form to cover stories that are of both small and large scale.
It is of course impossible to adequately report the whole of the artistic intentions and effects of Lorenz’s work given the restrictions of this medium. But hopefully it is enough to convincingly entice you to see the exhibit and, if possible, the author’s tour of it.