Archive for the 'joe vaux' Category

Normally, coffee stains on a book would depress the shit out of me

Today, I was in my favorite Oakland art gallery/art bookstore ( to pick something up for Rubyred, when I found out that there is a new book out by LA-based artist Mel Kadel. This is ironic, because I was telling Rubyred this morning about how Mel Kadel is in that like-but-don’t-love category… individually, I love her work, but in bunches, it tends to run together. Then, I see the new book, and the “have to have it” alarm goes off in my head, and I buy it. Later, at home, I contemplate why this is (of course, I contemplate it later, after spending my money).

I decided that Kadel’s work lends itself better to books than walls. I’ve seen her exhibited at a gallery in San Francisco, and that is when I decided that I wasn’t as crazy about it as I thought I was. But looking through this new book, my tune sort of changed. Part of it is the book design- both of her books (Rough Cookie and Honey Pool) are self-published and handmade (they’re essentially deluxe chapbooks). rough cookieShe publishes them in editions of 100, and sometimes will issue 2nd editions if enough people beg her (my copy of Rough Cookie is a 2nd edition), and each one is signed. The covers are really nice deckle-edged paper with color screenprinting, and the interior is all color printed on paper that has been carefully stained with coffee. Mel does a lot of art on coffee stained paper, and I noticed in the new book that she has been doing more to incorporate the shape of the stains into the art itself. The staining gives the pages a really unique look (for one, they’re wavy and brown), but it really works in the context of her art. So, here is what I mean about her work “working” better in a book than on a wall: in the art gallery, her pieces are dispersed along the physical space of the wall, whereas in the book, they are condensed into a really powerful nugget of common themes and patterns. “Yeah, but isn’t that true of all art books?” To a point, yes… but my point with Kadel is that her work works best when you digest it all at once, in a short burst, where it, and not the surroundings, is the sole focus of your attention. Rather than walking from piece to piece, the space in between them mediated by the physical space of the gallery and the whiteness and sterility of the walls, I can digest all of her work from within the book, which itself becomes an artifact straight out of the world that she creates. In this way, the book becomes a sort of missive from the world in which her ever-present female character struggles, triumphs, hides, and lives, and it provides a deeper experience of her art than the gallery setting.

I don’t feel this way about all art… I can stare at a Joe Vaux painting, for example, on a wall and get lost in it without wishing that I could digest it in book form. However, there is an important distinction here between an art book and an artist book. A glossy hardcover Mel Kadel book probably wouldn’t have the same effect described above, and so maybe the point I’ve been trying to make all along is that my “have to have it” alarm went off because of how much more I enjoy art when it is presented in the form of an artist book.¬† A good example here is Richard Coleman, an artist that, to me, is somewhat similar to Kadel in that there is (at leasrough cookie2t in my untrained eyes) an influence by Edward Gorey; also, Coleman, like Kadel, tends to paint in very static subject matter. (Another caveat: this isn’t the same as saying that all their paintings look the same. It is a more subjective determination that all of their paintings have the same aesthetic effect on me. Plus, since it’s subjective, you can’t get mad at me and yell at me for not finding the unique value in each and every different piece by these artists). Anyway, Gingko Press published a beautiful book of Coleman’s work that I was never really able to pull the trigger and buy (it’s only $40), because I never felt I would really look at it all that much. However, if Ckadel3oleman himself had designed and handmade a small book of his art, I think I would appreciate it on a much higher level. Clearly, I love books and that adds to my enjoyment of art, but it’s more my love of the book object as an art form… especially when there’s synergy between the book object and the art presented within, and ESPECIALLY when that synergy pays off as well as it does in Kadel’s two books.

Note: there’s a high probability that this blog makes no sense, has logical inconsistency, or demonstrates that I have no eye for fine art. If so, that sucks, I guess.

My favorite books, explained in a verbose manner: Volume 1

Most of the books I’ve described so far (specifically, the Codex Seraphinianus, Hollywood, and Voyage au bout de la nuit) are in my top 10 or so favorite books, with the Codex occupying the top spot. As such, look for a future installment of this soon-to-be-regular blog series dedicated solely to Serafini and my art-crush on him. For now, however, I want to dwell a little bit on my love for a pair of books I refer to as my “yearbooks.” They are both anthologies that I carry around with me to readings and gallery events in hopes of getting them signed by various contributors, just like a nerdy kid trying to get some of the cool kids in school to sign his yearbook (I’m so creative I could just melt, just like that).

CoprotasticThe first is the art anthology Copro/Nason: A Catalog Raisonn√© . Copro/Nason is a famous gallery in LA that has been at the forefront of the lowbrow (not really my taste)/pop surrealism (much more my taste) movement pretty much from the beginning. I found out about the gallery through my interest in Joe Vaux, one of the artists they’ve published. In fact, it was at a Joe Vaux opening that I got the idea for the yearbook in the first place. I had planned to pick up the book while I was there, and the person behind the desk gave me the option of the shrinkwrapped book or the opened, signed-by-the-editor copy. Naturally, I chose the latter, and when I turned around, one of the artists in the book, whose show was opening in a different part of the gallery, offered to sign a page for me (his name is Dan Quintana- his stuff isn’t my favorite, but it’s damn good). Feeling emboldened, and now with two signatures to enrich my life, I approached Joe Vaux and humbly asked him for his signature as well. Vaux’s signature is cool in that it’s not a scrawl like most- rather, it’s a spiral with the letters V-A-U-X dispersed among the coils. AND, to top it off, he drew a small sketch of a Vaux-like character right next to the plate featuring his artwork. Since then, I’ve managed to have Luke Chueh and Greg Simkins sign it as well, although I missed opportunities to get Robert Williams and Amy Sol to add their names. The Simkins signature looks very graffiti-ish, like a tag, while Chueh’s is just his name in block letters (distinctively written nonetheless). Plus, he went to the trouble to draw over a photograph of himself in the book so that he looks like one of the teddy bears featured in his paintings.

mcsweeneys 13Yearbook #2 is issue #13 of McSweeney’s. I bought it last summer on eBay for $30 with Dave Eggers’s signature in it (a good deal, in my opinion), which is ironic, given that Eggers has even less to do with this issue than most other ones. #13 is a fantastic collection of comics, edited by Chris Ware (whose signature I’m dying for), and it really rekindled my interest in non-superhero variety graphic novels and comics. This book has Joe Matt’s signature (I got it on “Joe Matt Day” – for a long, long, tediously long account of Joe Matt Day, click the link for my MySpace blog and scroll down a few entries), as well as a cool little drawing, and anything with Matt’s signature is pretty high up on my list of favorites. Also, I picked up Adrian Tomine’s signature at a reading he did to promote his new book Shortcomings (yes, I also got that one signed. I have no qualms about presenting an author 5 or 6 books at a signing. My only rule is that stuff I get for free doesn’t get sold at a profit. I don’t mind reselling something like a book or a print, where everyone involved was fairly paid for it at some point. But profiting off of a signature I got because an author is a nice guy just doesn’t seem right).

Because of the whole multiple-signature aspect, as well as the fact that these books are works in progress, they are really special to me. They aren’t in perfect condition, due to being lugged around in my backpack a bunch, but they’re still pretty nice, and they’re really unique. These aren’t books I could just buy on Abebooks or something, and I imagine I could probably get a pretty high price for both if I were willing to break the ethical standard I just enumerated a moment ago. It’s probably a rule I will break once or twice if a real rarity shows up on eBay that I just HAVE to have (and I’m positive that that will happen at some point), but for the most part, I don’t want to feel like a jerk when I ask authors for signatures. Plus, a lot of the books I’ve had signed in person are signed to me- this is on purpose. I know that flat-signed books are way more valuable (unless I become famous, which is, you know, pretty likely), but something about a stack books signed to me just adds sentimental value to my collection, and since I don’t plan to sell them anyway, that’s more important than dollar value.

January 2022