“X Libris” at Root Division

by Admin on 11/19/2012

The growing use of electronic communication, and specifically the advent of e-Reader devices like the Kindle and lately the iPad Mini used to read the latest novels or magazines, has changed our means of disseminating information, which before had mainly been relegated to the written word and the book format. Additionally, the ancillary language, visual and material structures rooted in the form has changed as well.  X Libris at Root Division, curated by MicroClimate Collective is an encompassing exhibition which examines myriad ways in which local artists have taken the perhaps obsolescing object into sculptural, artistic materials while also examining how this mode of communication is in flux.  X Libris explores the book as a vulnerable, ephemeral, morphing form in time of accelerated transition to digital communication and “real-time.”

San Francisco artist Julia Goodman, currently an Artist in Residence at Recology through January 2013, presents an engaging artwork with sculpture and video. The sculptural phrase, “Hold On Tightly”  remains affixed to the wall, and upon these words Goodman projects a video of assembled images with the phrase “Let Go Lightly.” Creating her paper from old bed sheets with assistance at Magnolia Paper in Oakland and later pressing the pulp into hand-carved wooden molds at her studio, Goodman creates a strong literal bond by pressing the phrase into the pulp, each one bound and altered by the other, to express the figurative bond of the word and paper written upon. Goodman says, “Handwriting on paper in this digital era has become archaic. I want to make the handwritten word more significant again by experimenting with materials and texture… Adding texture to communication is my aim both as an art-maker and a person.”

Any of artist Megan Prelinger’s projects, including the Prelinger Library project in the SOMA neighborhood, would have fit well within the group show at Root Division, but it is her current series, “Reading the Land, Value Me as You Please” that brings attention to an important material, maps and coins, into this examination. They  are an important part of public language and communication before the burgeoning digital age. In Spring 2000, Prelinger and her team began to place coins of their own design at various sites to recognize places they believed deserved more attention: some because they were rich in memory, others to mark the location of significant historical or cultural events. The particular coin on view at Root Division is of the Great Basin, the largest area of contiguous endorheic watersheds in North America. On the obverse side, a road disappearing into the horizon. Her coins explore the evolving relationship between human beings and the land and changing perceptions of it as society begins moving to cyberspace.

Perhaps the most eye-catching art installation is the meandering tower of books by Yulia Pinkusevich and co-curator and artist Glenna Cole Allee. The installation directly reflects upon Pinkusevich’s interest in how experience is informed and influenced by built environments and Cole Allee’s concern with the shifting relationships between place, myth and memory. The installation at Root Division as well as the satellite sculptures expounds upon the books’ objecthood, and how its materiality and elemental design has shaped our experience of use and also our cultural links to books. It also serves as a reminder these artistic explorations can only occur if these books are indeed obsolete: the books must be rendered of no use for the book to then take on this new meaning and be utilized in this manner. While the exhibition offers moments to lament the passing of the bound book form in the digital age, it celebrates the new genres of book arts.


Root Division’s group show, X Libris will be on view through December 1