ART UNDER COVER at Toronto Reference Library, TD Gallery, 789 Yonge, to March 30. 416-393-7158. Rating: NNN
Who knew the Toronto Public Library collected art? Art Under Cover reveals some of the limited-edition artists’ books that are part of its special collections.
Many of these works were purchased from book arts fairs and small presses in the 80s and 90s, but the library is still acquiring others like them.
The book art form incorporates elements of bookbinding, textile crafts, papermaking, printmaking, typesetting and calligraphy. Poets often contribute text.
These are not conceptual art multiples, and some verge on the craftsy and precious, but most are imaginative, aesthetically pleasing and amusing examples of this small side branch of the visual arts.
Some books are cleverly transformed to take the shape of their subjects, like Lise Melhorn Boe’s corset-shaped Bound By Convention and Carol Schwartzott’s A Brief History Of The Fan.
Humour and visual punning come into play in Ariel Brink’s Du Poetier, a DuMaurier smokes pack look-alike in which the “cigarettes” are rolled up paper printed with poems.
Printmakers use the form to present series and narratives. Catherine Gibbon’s 40s-style lithos pay homage to Hagersville workers and firefighters in Tire Fire Suite, while Ronald King’s Matisse-bright wire-and-paper puppets detach from the pages of Roy Fisher’s Caribbean Anansi stories.
Recent advances in printing on mylar and laser cutting are reflected in Terry Rutherford’s alphabet book, Food For Thought, and Melhorn-Boe’s collaboration with poet Lorna Crozier, The Sex Lives Of Vegetables.
It’s difficult to read and experience these books in glass cases. They were made to be handled, unfolded and thumbed through. Fortunately, that’s exactly what we can do in the Reference Library’s special collections. Not many galleries can offer such an ongoing oppotunity to engage with the art on display.