Rare is the book that doesn’t rely on folds; there are the utilitarian folds of the codex bound book, the over-the-top magic of flexagons and magic-wallets, the accordion so well suited for display books, pop-ups, pullouts, map folds – the list is a long one.
This post features two artists – Sammy Seung-min Lee and Joshua Orr, whose works incorporate thoughtful use of the fold as a way to marry concept and content.
Sammy Lee’s Three Willows Bindery
Before even opening three Three Willows Bindery by Sammy Seung-min Lee I suspect I will be captivated. Rather than being bound on the left, the book is opened by flipping the pages up towards the top edge, bound using this an exposed spine coptic stitch. The skewed and asymmetrical shape of the book hints at architectural content as the graphic depicts an aerial landscape view. The graphic is of raised shapes cut from material (printed paper?) that has an embossed wood grain, a lighter tone of brown than the surface underneath. When viewed from either side there is physical topography created by mountains and valleys of pleated paper. When I do open the book, the stage is set. I know I am entering a specific environment.
The contents of the book are almost entirely visual. The only text, aside from the title is the dedication “For Three Friends” and the few words that appear as part of the landscape on street and building signs or on the included architectural drawings. The visual narrative begins with a journey through an overgrown area littered and gritty, a vacant and abandoned city lot. In Lee’s words, the project “documents the personal narrative of discovering and reinvigorating a forgotten space.”
To create a virtually wordless work that tells a tale of a specific time and place in a way that engages an uninformed audience using shapes, both physical and visual, images both photographic and graphic and color, but no words, is not an easy task. Lee has achieved a successful balance between over simplification and complexity.
The book is comprised of three different types of geometric pages, varying in shape and size. The pages’ contents can expand and interact in multiple permutations based on their folds, much like a map can be refolded in various ways. The pleats of the pages also resemble the topography of the land: the overall shape of the book mirrors the site.
Joshua Orr – Deluge and Shifting
Deluge is a slim, lightweight volume housed in the three sided box. On first examination the book presents as an assortment of printed shapes, in cool tones on lightweight folded sheets. With each turning of the page there are new patterns and combinations of patterns to consider. Closer examination reveals a very tidily placed textual narrative.
To access the narrative requires more interaction with the individual pages. For example a page folded in quarters is sewn in, the top half can be lifted, exposing the other side of the printed sheet. To read the phrase “tides move and swell” requires lifting the folded page towards the top edge of the book to access (thus moving the page and swelling its size).
Just as I settle in to the predictable rhythm of turning a page and lifting it to access the next phrase, the format shifts to folded page that extends horizontally. At about this same point in the book the imagery is decidedly more complex and chaotic with more of the page surface covered with marks that appear in two colors rather than one. The final graphic is of flattened spiral shapes trapped behind a rectangular grid that reads as a barrier, or fence.
The book has a flow that brings to mind The Beaufort Scale, an empirical measure that relates wind speed to observed conditions at sea or on land. The slow pace of reading the text combined with the use of lightweight papers, muted colors in neutral tones that do not shout loudly or distract are a striking and effective contradiction to the agony presented in the text.
Orr’s attention to detail in Shifting starts with the case, a shimmery duotone green and gold cloth (yet another work without a label on the outside . . . Is this a trend?). A livelier green tone paper chemise is bound into the case and houses the book itself. The placement of the colophon on the outer case means I am privy to production details before I open the book itself.
Thumb slots make pulling the book out of the chemise an easy and enjoyable task. The front cover of the book is indicated by a circular graphic surrounded by speckles, printed golden brown. This graphic is repeated in other earthy tones and various sizes inside the book itself, which consists solely of a single sheet, folded Turkish map style. Pithy and quiet, the entire text totals seven words. No more are needed; the project is a complete presentation of what is evidently a personal exploration of domestic realities.
I find Shifting compelling in that lacks a strong and obvious point of view. I have returned to its quiet homily again and again throughout the exhibition. The gift of a work like this is that is triggers a state of mind without expectation that my state of mind reflects or mimics that of Orr.
Contact the gallery to inquire about availability of these titles.