Artists at Seattle's Foster/White turn books into art
Books as art on show at Seattle's Foster/White Gallery: Guy Laramée transforms reference volumes into rugged landscapes, while Cara Barer creates stunning images — everything from a butterfly to a city skyline — with her archival inkjets of discarded phone books, newspapers and magazines.
Seattle Times arts writer
Cara Barer's 'Bound and Unbound' and Guy Laramée's 'Mountains'10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays through July 28, Foster/White Gallery, 220 Third Ave. S., Seattle; free (206-622-2833 or www.fosterwhite.com).
At the Bellevue Arts Museum three years ago, Canadian artist Guy Laramée was the undisputed star of "The Book Borrowers," a group show of artworks created from discarded books.
His masterpiece was "La Grande Bibliothèque," an entire Grand Canyon — complete with ledges, crevices, rock bridges, promontories and caves — constructed from sandblasted volumes of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.
There's nothing quite as spectacular as "La Grande Bibliothèque" in Laramée's new show, "Mountains," at Foster/White Gallery. But working on a smaller scale, he does achieve some enchanting effects as he transforms dusty old reference books into landscapes that range from a plateau-top village to a variety of canyonlands and coulees.
"Le Pont" cleverly recasts a sliver from a single page of a French encyclopedia as a fragile bridge between two opposing cliff faces, sandblasted from the pages of the stacked volumes. "El Libro de Arena" creates grandeur in miniature with an amphitheaterlike space carved out of reference books.
The most perfect match of source material with image is "Brown's Bible," an enormous tome hollowed out in such a way as to frame a craggy biblical-desert landscape. Lit simply with a desk-lamp, it's as otherworldly as it is persuasive.
While Laramée's work doesn't always rise to these heights, the work of Cara Barer — another book artist with a show, "Bound and Unbound," at Foster/White — is consistently surprising and fine. Barer has forged a whole aesthetic from a "random encounter" she had with a curled and worn Yellow Pages volume in a Houston street some years ago. That led to deliberate attempts, she says on her website, "to blur the line between objects, sculpture and photography."
Newspapers, magazines, junk mail and other printed materials are her subject. But her final product consists of archival inkjets on paper, created on a large-format scanner that allows her to exercise precise control over which parts of her printed-material assemblages are in focus. She sometimes inverts colors or uses some other digital effects to get what she's after.
In "Blue Butterfly," she suggests the patterned wings of some fantastical lepidopteran by symmetrically doubling an image of crumpled newspaper, Rorschach-style. The result is so sublime that it comes as a shock to step up close and note the prosaic detail of an ad with a phone number and a street address. "Dream Tree" creates similarly exotic effects from humble materials, almost completely transcending its printed-matter origins.
Elsewhere, Barer takes more sinister turns. "Metropolis" constructs a whole tilting skyline from rolled scrolls of pharmaceutical logos, information and instructions. Drug doses, in grams and milligrams, float amid neon-colored capsules against a brown-gray translucence resembling X-ray film. If this is a city, it's one in a state of altered consciousness.
"Archived," "Apropos" and "None of the Above" allude more directly to our media-dominated world, with Barer artfully highlighting newspaper headlines that touch on everything from the contentiously political to upbeat soft-news fare ("Milking life for more").
Oddly, it's the least visually striking work in Barer's show, "My Theatre," that serves up the most tantalizing mix of texts in its collage of 204 rectangular images. Dictionary and encyclopedia entries, recipes and excerpts from Edgar Allan Poe and "Macbeth" are among the snippets that make up this seeming psychic self-portrait.
Note: Two local artists have work on show at Foster/White that has some kinship with Laramée's work. Cameron Anne Mason manages to make textile art appear geological — or at least topographical. Mounted like bas-relief sculptures on the wall, her square-format images depict, variously, a sand dune a field or a tectonic fault, all as seen from an aerial view.
Mark Rediske's assemblages of small encaustics (ranging from three to 25 panels) come with titles that allude to geographical features ("Plateau," "Labyrinth") or make musical references ("Arioso," "Solas"). While each piece of each puzzle is a pleasant-enough abstract painting, taken together they add up to far more than the sum of their parts — especially with titles that seem to set them into play.
Michael Upchurch: firstname.lastname@example.org