Tuesday, July 7, 2009

See You at the Biennial?

There is no better launch pad for generating discussion about craft and art, than in the five finalist books competing for the 2009 MCBA Prize, the first international prize from the U.S. that in its conception supports artistic invention and investigation across the book art spectrum. Full disclosure: I served on a committee (along with MCBA Artistic Director Jeff Rathermel and artist Paulette Myers-Rich) that drafted the guidelines. The prize expresses MCBA’s longstanding commitment to opening up discussion across the field and supporting the best in contemporary book art today.

A look at the finalist works on MCBA’s website can’t help but get you thinking about content and craft and the vast number of ways that books engage readers. Their means of making include calligraphy, offset printing, and letterpress. One book is hand-lettered on walnut-stained Cavepaper, and another is letterpress-printed on 50 year-old gossamer-thin Toshaban-Genshi paper. Languages used include German, Japanese and English. Graphic character marches forward in layered sans serif type, or it is coaxed from subtle progressions in ink accompanying nautical charts and scientific data that subtly respond to three poems in the book.

Pictured in this post are the five contenders: Julie Chen's Panorama (top right), Jan Owen's Requiem (above right), Clifton Meador's Avalanche (below left), Veronika Schäpers's Durs Grünbein: 26°57,3’N, 142º16,8’E (below right), and Simon Redington's Bomb (bottom left).

The three judges who chose the five finalists are respected artists John Risseeuw and Scott McCarney, and Wellesley College Special Collections Librarian Ruth Rogers. They brought a vast range in experience and interest to the task of winnowing down the field of over 100 submissions from ten countries.

If you can make it to Minneapolis the evening of Saturday, July 25, join with the jurors and our local artist community to share cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, gaze at the finalist works on display, and debate which work most deserves the inaugural MCBA Prize. Later that evening the winning work will be announced. In fact, the three jurors will have chosen the winner just the day before after arriving in Minneapolis. You will be joined that evening by four of the five finalists: Julie Chen from Berkeley, California, Clifton Meador from Chicago, Illinois, Jan Owen from Belfast, Maine, and Simon Redington from London, England. (The travel plans of the fifth finalist, Veronika Schäpers from Tokyo, Japan, are as yet undetermined.)

Equally important to note, is that the Biennial actually begins at MCBA in the morning and runs throughout the day. Juror John Risseeuw will deliver a keynote talk at 10 am, followed by panels on “Artists’ Books as Agents of Social Change: a Tool Kit,” and then, “Book: the Object.” Panelists will include the jurors and local arts leaders, and the visiting finalists will no doubt add their thoughts to the discussions. See MCBA’s website for registration details; it should be a memorable day.

Hope to see you at the Biennial!