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.
Tumbling down like water, Jukhee Kwon’s cut books resonate with the appearance of movement despite their stillness. For years, Kwon has experimented with hand-cutting the pages of books into long continuous strips of paper. Drawing inspiration from natural and architectural structures in her everyday surroundings, Kwon’s interest in form has led her to create work that seemingly transforms the delicate medium of paper into configurations that give the illusion of weight and density.
Kwon, who is currently an Italian resident, explains that her sculpture Redemption was inspired by the Roman temple. Constructed from eight Italian books titled Mysterium Salutis, the work not only explores the cultural history of her current home, but also is a reflection of her national heritage as well. As Kwon reveals:
“The circle is an important symbol for Koreans as it can represent the moon, flux and flow, like the tides and the rotation of life. This time I changed this a little by creating an opening, an entrance. I wanted to express the idea of a temple expanding, of opening up, so that people can access whatever they believe in. No matter what religion, the cycle of life and death continues.”
Her sculptures provide renewed life, in and of themselves, to the books that she uses. Kwon uses only volumes that have been discarded. Her sculptures thus allow the books to be reincarnated—to be given a new purpose. Much like other book sculptors, Kwon views this process as a “collaboration with the author, as the words can sometimes become the message or have an impact on the shape or form of the sculpture.” She is careful to keep the lines of text intact as she cuts the books. Thus for Kwon, her works transform original content into something that is spatially very new.
Jukhee Kwon (b. South Korea) received a B.A. in Fine Art from Chung-Ang University in Seoul, South Korea in 2004. In 2011, she received her M.A. from Camberwell College of Arts, London, where she began to practice book art. She has worked and resided in Grottaferrata, Italy since 2012.
Elizabeth K. Harris is the Director at Louis K. Meisel Gallery. She holds an MA in Visual Arts Administration from New York University and has co-authored two books on art. She likes looking at books more than reading them.