artist book: a work of art realized in the form of a book.
The definition may sound simple, but the world of artist books can be a bewildering place. From the familiar pairing of images and text, to sculptures created out of paper and complicated bindings that create a performance each time the book is opened, nearly anything can be called an artist book if there is intention and consideration. This series showcases artists from different realms of the art world exploring the structure and meaning of the book.
As internet perusers, many of you have most likely seen work by Guy Laramée. Often using multiple books bound together, Laramée alters existing books to create three-dimensional landscapes. It is easy to get lost in the minutia of the mountains and hills so painstakingly carved and painted, but the viewer is not allowed to forget that the piece’s base is a book. By leaving titles exposed on covers and spines, or exposing a single word in a landscape, Laramée reminds us that these sculptures exist through the effacing of knowledge the books house; in creating a beautiful piece to view, he has rendered the book(s) useless for the original intention.
In his artist statement, Laramée writes of the supposed “end of the printed word” and the continual cultural cycles of new replacing old, and to what end. He questions the benefit of chasing all-knowing understanding about human existence—perhaps we’re moving further from the truth the more we analyze and invent? In his own words, Laramée’s work “originates from the very idea that ultimate knowledge could very well be an erosion instead of an accumulation.” In the newer work, the titles of the pieces are linked to the titles of the books used to create them. Some series illustrate and subvert the key theme of the selected books (as in “La Caverna”) whereas some of the older work speaks more simply to erosion of cultures and knowledge paired with the human relationship to landscape.
Highly considered lighting strengthens these works immensely (also referencing ideas of illumination and darkness in the search for understanding), and Laramée seems to be pushing his use of light and photography to make his sculptures more akin to landscape paintings.
Beyond their surface beauty, Laramée’s work has serious intellectual depth. There is a long text on his website entitled “Biblios” where he has imagined a sort of reversal of knowledge gain that is an interesting, if uncomfortable, read. As with much art that is highly intellectual, there needs to be seduction and accessibility to draw viewers into the question being posed, and Laramée has achieved that. The well-considered interplay of colors and light invites a critical, cognizant viewer to wonder and explore, for which he/she will be rewarded.
Guy Laramée holds an MA in Visutal Arts from the Université de Québec a Montréal, and an MA in Anthropology from Concordia University. His work is held in numerous collections in Canada and the United States.
Margret Hall is a book artist and photographer living and working in Asheville, NC. Before moving to Asheville to train in book restoration (and live life in the mountains), she taught book arts at The Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University, where she also received her BFA in Photography with a minor in Art History and Book Arts.