The idea of books as art may seem confounding at first, a neither-fish-nor-flesh commingling of writing and visual art, until you consider the physical book as simply a structure to contain an artist's ideas, no different than a canvas or a block of marble. "Book art" is defined as work influenced by the properties of books (pages or layers; sequentiality; use of text), while "book arts" comprise the craft entailed in making a book, from papermaking to letterpress operation to bookbinding.
It's that second form that will be addressed at Urban ReThink's Book Making workshop Wednesday, led by Greg Leibowitz and Adrian Gonzalez, both veterans of the Flying Horse Editions print studio. (Local illustrator Carly Jean Andrews will also be on hand.)
"Take a piece of paper. Fold it eight times, and now you have a book," Leibowitz says.
It seems simplistic, even self-evident, but it's that simple act of transformation that first fascinated Leibowitz, who delved into the processes of print by interning at local letterpress concern Mama's Sauce as well as Flying Horse. Leibowitz's work at Flying Horse included helping create multiple editions of James Siena's Sequence One, a geometric pattern that waxes and wanes throughout the 79 double-sided pages of an accordion book. While studying through observation the conceptual nature of book art, Leibowitz soaked up the technical skills with ink, paper, thread and adhesive that make up book arts, and he has some opinions on how the one influences the other.
"McSweeney's does a really good job of making sure their books are conceptually in tune with the text," he says, referring to Dave Eggers' publishing company, known for producing books and magazines in which presentation is as important as narrative. McSweeney's is able to publish books that are art objects by getting to know their printers, touring the presses and figuring out what each machine is capable of, says Leibowitz.
Leibowitz and Gonzalez hope to cover the basics of both Eastern and Western binding techniques, how make a cloth-bound hardcover, how to lay out a page registry, even pop-up engineering. Whether an artist wants to hand-make a book as a vessel for ideas or manipulate and reinterpret the book itself as an art object, all are useful skills to know – but it seems unlikely they'll be able to cram it all into one evening. Look for this one-off to unfold into a series of workshops.
Re:Design presents: Book Making
7 p.m. Wednesday, July 25
625 E. Central Blvd.
$5 (suggested donation)