Monday, February 23, 2015

Olafur Eliasson, Contact (glow-in-the-dark limited edition of 291 copies)

This is the limited edition of Olafur Eliasson's exhibition catalogue Contact, published in a run of only 291 copies in conjunction with Eliasson's show at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris. (The show actually ended today!) This book is absolutely glorious in both the regular and limited editions, featuring an exceptional balance of metallic inks and black paper stock. The first half of the book is printed on black sheets that feel like construction paper, and each spread features a breathtaking ombre from black to metallic colors that echo photo-negative tones.

When it was still available, the limited edition was only 30 EUR more than the regular edition and it was absolutely worth it. 32 pages of Contact are silkscreened in fluorescent, glow-in-the-dark ink. These pages depict line-renderings of various rooms and hallways of the Contact exhibition and glow under a hot light. Take a look:

The second half of the book consists of a more traditional exhibition catalogue, but still has some exciting parts to it: in between essays, spreads of sketches appear, showing an interesting side of Eliasson's creative process. It's remarkable to see works as polished as Eliasson's in this format, reminding viewers and readers that even his most ambitious pieces started as a scribbled idea.

Currently reading:
Fire and Knowledge by Peter Nadas

Currently Listening to:
Bing and Ruth, "Tomorrow Was the Golden Age"

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Don DeLillo and Richard Prince, "The Word for Snow" (Karma/Glenn Horowitz, 2014)

The Word for Snow is a maddening one-act play by Don DeLillo recently published by Glenn Horowitz and Karma, a New York publisher/gallery/boutique. Karma produces artist's books and unconventional exhibition catalogues, ranging from small staple-bound zines ($5) to hardcover volumes with unique, illustrated covers by the likes of Julian Schnabel and Chris Martin ($300 and up). The great thing about Karma is they are constantly producing work, launching exhibitions in New York or Easthampton, and co-publishing with other galleries in a way that broadens their roster. They also track down rare exhibition catalogues, which all seem to sell out promptly.

The Word for Snow is a very strange book, a remarkable literary piece snuck out amidst a slew of books on contemporary artists. Illustrated sparingly with bleak photographs by Richard Prince, the majority of The Word for Snow is emptiness. DeLillo's play only appears on the right side of the gutter, with the left pages blank except for a few Prince photographs every five-or-so-pages. The text is in a slightly deteriorated, large typewriter font, almost as if a lost manuscript was scanned and bound together. The play runs less that 30 pages, but packs a world of apocalyptic terror in its sparsity.

The conceit of the play is that a Pilgrim has finally achieved an audience with a Scholar, secreted away in some "mud hut" on an "unnamed mountain somewhere in a lost corner of west-central Asia." His discussion with the scholar is filtered through a third person, The Interpreter, which quickly mutates their Q-and-A into a play for three distinct voices. The Pilgrim, to his dismay, discovers that the Scholar's past teaching are considered obsolete, and that focus must be shifted instead onto the "death wish of technology," when "all languages are one language" and "the word becomes the thing." Confounding, classic DeLillo, futurism wrapped in fearfulness.

Richard Prince's photographs of old run-down homes and basketball hoops look relatively innocuous at first glance, but they transform into an appropriate doomsday motif once DeLillo gets momentum. Seen alone at a gallery show, I would hardly be moved by these visuals, but in tandem with The Word for Snow they drift towards meaning.

The Word for Snow was available in an edition of 1000 copies, 125 of which where bound in hardcover and signed by Prince and DeLillo. Signed copies are available at $350 from Karma's website, but the rest of 875 are completely sold out. They occasionally come up on eBay for around $45 (think there's one there right now). Highly recommended.

Currently reading:
Ander Monson, Letter to a Future Lover

Currently listening to:
"Returnal" by Oneohtrix Point Never

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Haruki Murakami, Tony Takitani (Cloverfield Press, 2006)

Back in 2006, a small Los Angeles publisher named Cloverfield Press came out with a line of small chapbooks with letterpressed covers. There were eight in total, including The Boy from Lam Kien by Miranda July and Tony Takitani by Haruki Murakami. "Tony Takitani" is a beloved Murakami story, originally written in 1990 and published in the New Yorker in 2002 (and was even made into a film in 2005). The story went on to be included in the author's English-language Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman collection in 2006, but was first published that year in a standalone volume by Cloverfield Press. 

Cloverfield Press's thing was that they numbered every copy and stamped them with a notary-like seal. It was a great way of making their books collectible without having signatures in every copy. Due to Murakami's rabid fanbase, Tony Takitani sold exceptionally fast, and was fetching some surprisingly high prices on eBay at one point. I personally sold a few copies myself, surprised that people didn't figure out that you could buy them directly from the press. I accidentally left myself with a first edition / second printing, though!

Activity at Cloverfield Press vanished after this first line of books. Their site is still live (here), but it's a ghost town. Nothing's been updated in about nine years...!

This is copy 1135 (of perhaps 2000).

Lovely endpapers, inverting the cover illustrations:

Currently reading:
Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman

Currently listening to:
Gaussian Curve, "Clouds"

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Charles Burns: Echo Echo, Deluxe Edition with original pencil sketch (Pigeon Press, 2012)

This is a rare Charles Burns book called Echo Echo that came out a few years ago under Alvin Buenaventura's Pigeon Press imprint. It was looking for a time like Pigeon Press would be the long-overdue follow-up to the sorely missed Buenaventura Press. Buenaventura Press used to put out some of the coolest small-print-run books and prints by the best names in comics, as well as the highly revered first seven issues of Kramer's Ergot. Buenaventura Press folded years ago (2010) but re-appeared, newly christened, with Echo Echo to launch their new book line. But, that was it. Echo Echo was snatched up by a lot of collectors, and nothing's been published since as far as I'm aware. Further, the Pigeon Press site has these books marked "currently unavailable", which suggests to me that they're not sold out, but simply not being sold anymore for some reason. There is a Pigeon Press Gallery, but that's hardly been updated much at all.

The book is a triumph. Beautifully reproducing Charles Burns's Black Hole sketches on transparent paper in an array of layered images, Echo Echo shows a side of Burns's artistry that is often overlooked due to the solid, black imagery that prevails in his finished product. He's an accomplished sketcher, and the book showcases how much manual work went into Black Hole, which in its completed form can look at times almost too perfect.

Echo Echo was offered in two versions, a regular edition of 400 copies and a deluxe edition of 100 copies, each with an original sketch taped inside the back cover. This is copy 61 of 100.

My drawing, framed, is below.

(Alvin Buenaventura: if you find this, please come back to publishing! Your vision has yet to be matched since you closed up shop.)

Currently reading:
Brian Boyd, Nabokov's "Pale Fire"

Currently listening to:
"Centralia" by Mountains