A lot of my students are curious about Altered Books. I tend to cringe hearing the words Altered Books, because I think back to Crispin Glover's goth cut-ups that were pathetic Burroughs rip offs. They can be ultra corny. But there is a lot of potential in the Altered Book, and it is so satisfying to take a knife to a book. It's inextricably tied to collage, so I mention here Dada, the Surrealists, and Beats to get the ball rolling. Here are a few thoughts on this sticky topic. This is such a crude look, there are many more artists working in this field and I'd love to hear from YOU about your favorites.
COLLAGE, PART 1
Hannah Hoch is one of my favorite artists and her photomontages look exceptional in print. Her collages were so vivid that they feel to me, even flattened onto a 2D picture plane, like Altered Books. Here are the finest monographs about her.
The book called ALBUM is really good. It's definitely pre-Google Image, Hoch own personal visual reference library she was making as she made collages through the years. I include here also a portrait of her and her partner of several years, Til Brugman, because I like how Hoch's sharp haircut even predicts her affinity for cutting paper.
There are so many kajillions of blogs that feature Hoch-like work, it's a bit disorienting. But some are actually pretty fun.
Wilfried Satty Podriech
There are also kajillions of blogs that showcase Larry-Jordan era 1960s and 70s art in the Max Ernst Une Semaine De Bonte style of Victorian cut-up. These kinds of collages too feel like predecessors of Altered Books
Kirstine Roepstorff is one of my favorite collage artists working today. Her work does borrow a lot from Hoch, but she has taken the concept much further over past years. She is represented by Peres Projects.
Pink, 2004, Courtesy Christina Wilson Gallery
BOOKS, TEXT, FILM: PART 2
Burroughs /Gysin collaborations are psychic cut-ups as well as physical cut-ups, riffing on the Exquisite Corpse game that the Surrealists played.
Here's an image of "Warning, Warning, Warning, Warning," from Issue 4 of My Own Mag. In this piece, a cut-up is a 32-page grid to be read any way one sees fit.
Tom Phillips was inspired by Burroughs, and made a classic Altered Book called A Humument. It is still in print and it's fun to read through. Here is slide show of the project.
Doing a little research today, I found Brian Dettmer's work on-line, and I have to say it looks kind of great. I'd venture to go see it if a show of his ever rolls around that I can catch. The image heading the post is of a Dettmer piece, and below is a YouTube clip from some news channel profiling Dettmer.
While I don't know his work extremely well, I have read about the king of altered books, artist Buzz Spector, and he's just too conceptual for my taste. At some point, a book is a book and I want to be able to interact with it. In this recent show, he piled books by Cornell faculty into a sculpture.
But, why not just make a library of those books so people can actually read them?