OPPOSITION, the twenty-third annual New Jersey Book Arts Symposium, will feature seven highly orignal artists who may discuss their work within the context of the presence and uses of opposition in the twenty-first century artists’ book. Lesley Dill’s tissue thin page and book gowns trace a porous boundary between the ephemeral object and durative language, suggesting the opposition of matter and spirit. Drawing on history and fashion, she suggests an archetypal point of origin contained within a swarm of momentary impressions, a grounding within history that has at best a shifting ground. Also employing fabric, China Marks challenges binary thinking in juxtaposing colloquial and culturally sanctioned images to construct Strange Loops of perception and identity. Working in the spirit of Dada, Marks creates drawings by sewing-machine, which one might suggest serves reflexively as a “rocking horse” symbol--a symbol of dynamic equilibrium. Susan Happersett, whose printed books bridge the simplicity of counting and the inexhaustibility of thought, focuses our attention on the mediating instrument of the mind, itself, and the myriad implicit contradictions, the ones and zeroes, that play within thought. In utilizng the medium of collage (like China Marks, and other artists in OPPOSITION), Happerset questions the coincidence of the world one finds and the world one makes.
One of the artistic decisions that pervade OPPOSITION and indeed the last half-century of artists’ books, attends to the creative tension between two and three dimensions: the “virtual” book, in which text draws the reader into illusionary space, and the actual three dimensions occupied by objects--the book and the reader’s body. Escher-like, both spaces contain the other. French artist and scholar Gaëlle Pelachaud’s pop-up and animated books invert the habitual relationship of the "real" environment and the “virtual” story and, like China Marks’s drawings, tease the defining opposition of personal gesture and public art. One of the longest running American private presses, and an early proponent of the artists’ book, The Purgatory Pie Press, operated by Dikko Faust and Esther Smith has functioned in continual opposition to bibliographic normativity for over forty years. Their Arp-like overprintings, which seem almost to bend light, evoke the contrast between motion and stillness, and in their own language, speak to Lesley Dill's poetic concern with the opposition of spirit and matter. With a similar poetic bent, artist, paper-maker and scholar, Robbin Ami Silverberg creates works divided into multiple parts that foreground questions of gathering and dispersing, of individual riffs and overarching tones, wholeness and independence. Requiring readers to construct them, and therefore consciously construct their own reading and viewing experience (and what meanings may come therefrom), Silverberg’s books also explode the oppositions of artist and viewer, subject and object.
Using a variety of materials, these artists—and the others who are included in our exhibition, OPPOSITION (Béatrice Coron & Mick Stern, Asha Ganpat, Karen Guancione, Anja Harms, Burgi Kühnemann, Catherine LeCleire, MaryAnn L. Miller, Yasutomo Ota, Anna Pinto, Amanda Thackray, Debra Weier, Marcia Wilson)—draw on a universe of oppositions, both abstract and concrete, in considering the work as an aesthetic thing and as a fluid, multivalent, symbolism, to draw attention to the vitality of the book, and reinforce its relevance to ongoing sociocultural discourses, as well as contemporary political crises. Political crises, let us note, inspired this year's choice of a theme. In OPPOSITION, the New Jersey Book Arts Symposium is voicing its
full support for artists around the world who through their work and activism have engaged the ongoing struggle for human rights, dignity and justice against the forces of tyranny, and to reassert the power of the book in meeting oppression with unwavering opposition.