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.
These days it’s hard to miss the photographs of Cara Barer, an artist whose work blurs the lines between sculpture and photography. Recently featured at AIPAD 2016 and KunstRAI Art Amsterdam, Barer’s work spans multiple markets and has caught the attention of photography and art book collectors alike.
Initially inspired by a rain-soaked Yellow Pages lying on the ground, Barer made a photograph of the subject, and, pleased with the results, she eventually began transforming her own outdated books with water and photographed the results against a black background. The pages of her books are hand-dyed and purposefully manipulated into swooping, curving forms. Photographed from overhead, the books are positioned on their edge with their bindings split and made round. The resulting imagery is reminiscent of photographs produced for scientific documentation.
The Rorschach-like quality of Barer’s work actively plays upon her audience’s imaginations; her imagery has been likened to blooming flowers, butterflies, and spiritual mandalas. For Barer, her aim is “to engage the viewer by presenting the book out of context and [to cause her viewer] to look at it as something else other than a book. With only the object to concentrate on, in its metamorphosed state, it becomes something other than what it is.”
Cara Barer lives and works in Houston, Texas. Her work with manipulated books began in 2004. Since that time, she has experimented with new forms, colors and manipulations. Initially retaining a more book-like appearance, her imagery has evolved to become more amorphous over time. Her choice of media has also expanded to include outdated magazines and maps.
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.