When a book becomes a work

/ 11 March, 2015

Books have generally been used to socialize linguistic signs and they can be considered the quintessential support for information flow before the so call “digital era”. This set of pages arranged in a sequence has also managed to insert within the plastic production turf. Since artists understood oil or marble was not essential for doing art, almost anything was likely to become “work”. An action or an everyday object which were refurbished with an aesthetic purpose and the same has happened with books, whose singular logic, has offered many creative possibilities.

Various forms have taken this element, to give a “demonstration” in visual arts, which cannot be but hybrid and contaminated in a good way. In Cuba it is a type of production difficult to locate, since it is usually time points in the poetics of a creator; although there have been few who have come to this way of doing.

But how is it books become a work and vice versa?

First, it is undeniable the relationship established with literature. Thus we can find examples in which the link between image and text is rather bilateral, significantly reciprocity. The critic Orlando Hernandez is one of the persons that has been linked to these activities, who has to his credit a group of works made by four hands with leading creators of Cuban art. Generally, his participation has been from the word, shared with Bedia’s or Lázaro Saavedra’s images, for example.

Another connection that can be recognized is with engraving, which has led to the misconception that art-books are a genre proprietary graphic artists, but the fact remains that in our context, they have been who most often have ventured into this area, especially due to knowledge management and constant propagation techniques allowing them greater familiarity with this support. Artists like Ibrahim Miranda, Sandra Ramos, Anyelmaidelín Calzadilla or Hanoi Pérez have used different techniques to produce work-books as screen printing or engraving.

Yet there are other artists who morphological or conceptually dynamite the book. Under the idea of sequencing, and the expressed inherent temporality in the set of pages arranged one after another, have offered proposals that combine various methods. We can find copies that totally deny the manual nature which could also be granted to any part of this production as Revolución una y mil veces by Reynier Leyva Novo, which was carried out in a printing press. There are others, however, who question its character and have unique serial works such as Sin título by Yornel Martínez could be. Additionally he is able to play with the physical structure of the book itself without losing its traditional form. The pages of this volume are other books covers, so the message is always focused on appearance, on the surface. He offers insights into the possible relationship between “container and contained” on a support like this.

They have been children’s books, their features, formats and structures, a typology that has remarkably influenced some work. We cannot fail to mention the pop-ups by Carlos Garaicoa, with projecting different types of Cuban and universal architecture buildings, recognizable or not. Similarly Lisandra Ramírez is inspired by a particular style, Russian books as ubiquitous in her childhood and some of ours, and she invents stories, recreating the child’s language and almost rhymed.

While Lisandra assumes, Adislén Reyes dynamite all this imagery in an art-work done in screen printing. The idea of children associated with ingenuity is completely put into question, especially by the ease and naturalness with which he approaches an issue as complicated as eroticism. Selecting the proper format in this case by way of folding in accordion and colors and iconography, reinforces the subversion that almost goes unnoticed.

Likewise, there are a group of works that border the sculptural. Books objects, those in which it is impossible to turn the pages and just focus on the device itself. Eduardo Pojuán would be the master of this type of work. He takes preexisting books and intervenes, turning them in species with identity, character-masks to question the contents of this support which can be from books on artists, art or science encyclopedias up atlas itself. Sandra Ramos is one of the artists who has rightly and repeatedly dabbled in conducting books. Hers are works that move somewhere between the book itself and sculpture. They have parts -pages- which respect the inherent temporality narrative, yet their expressiveness is given in its spatial projection. Jabberwooky exploits the reflective quality of the mirror, promoting the ideas of what is real and what is imagined. Even the shape itself is able to accentuate this concern as mirrors converge at a single center.   Glenda León also referred to ideas such as consumption and playfulness in the visual arts as well as ways of apprehending the books in everyday life, through the piece Lecturas fragmentadas which has two versions. One is made using each of the ten volumes of the first series of photography magazine C International Photo Magazine, from which she has withdrawn a wedge-shaped portion which is in turn placed on a dish. The second case is a kind of cake made up of the ten portions which probably refers to an individual’s construction of knowledge.

In recent years, in Cuba, books have become in a way to articulate artistic discourse; either from their paged structure with a serial manual or industrial manufacture, unique pieces or, with or without text. Creators feel passionate about the dissimilar ways books can materialize and, above all, the expressive power they have. They are not minor pieces as many have wanted to see. The book object is not reserved only for literature or words; so has been shown by works which are constantly reformulated and renewed.

Chrislie Pérez

Chrislie Pérez

La Habana, 1985. Crítica de arte y curadora. Especialista de la Galería ARTIS 718 del Fondo Cubano de Bienes Culturales. Licenciada en Historia del Arte por la Universidad de La Habana. Mención en el Premio Guy Pérez Cisneros que otorga el Consejo Nacional de las Artes Plásticas en la categoría de reseña (2013). Sus trabajos aparecen en publicaciones como Artecubano, Noticias de Artecubano, La Gaceta, Arte por Excelencias, entre otras.

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