Artist Books!

The class had a morning visit to the ‘old’ women’s library, where they are moving in the archives from the old building. The archives we went to see were Artist Books. Strict rules followed the library, no food or drink (obviously), no bags and no pens…only pencils. The books we were there to explore are coded, collected and stored in plastic covers, within plastic bags. A pick out of random, like everyone, I had been presented with a book; ‘The Telephone Book’ by John Baldessari. Published by, Imschoot, Utigevers For IC, which is in Belgium.

This artist is unknown to me, and so was his work. Nonetheless, I took this book for what it was and had an examination. Printed on smooth, medium thick paper, possibly silk or matte finish, not quite gloss. A colour printed cover, consisting of a murky blue cover, the title at the top, centred, and the author at the bottom, centred. Separating them was a colour picture in the middle, centred. A cropped close up image of someone’s hands holding some pearls.

The book was finished in a burst perfect glue bound, with a complete wrap around cover.

The contents within the book, was at first sight a collection of cropped black and white photos. Some of people in suits on telephones, some cropped images of pearls, and some of what appeared to be people in suits in an office. Possibly staged photographs. I am unsure. As carefully flicked through the book, the cropped images took different shapes and sizes, and a select few of the images had coloured spots where the peoples heads would be. Still, I am unsure of what this meant.

It was until I looked through the book from beginning to end, that I realised. The images seemed to be carefully cropped, as the artist wanted the view to look at that specific focus. Some cropped images from page to page kept appearing, but as a different crop. This was a type of story, that I had to figure out for myself. I was still unsure of what it was trying to tell me, but it was a good sense of narrative. The cropped images gave a good impression of focus. Not quite cinematic views, but still had me gripped in to work out what was going on. As the book itself was completely wordless (apart from the title), it was an interesting piece of work.

It wasn’t until later I discovered, I had been looking at classic old treasure! I had found this description from a website;

Telephone Book (With Pearls) by John Baldessari is a fascinating example of the photomontage work Baldessari created during the ’80s on a smaller scale. The book consists of film stills from Baldessari’s large collection which feature the title objects; telephones and pearls, in different settings, often implementing creative cropping of the stills and sometimes utilizing Baldessari’s signature colorful dots covering parts of the stills as well. Essentially, Baldessari’s Telephone Book (With Pearls) is a variation on a theme; employing the title objects to create a completely visual narrative.

I had gone into this book with an open mind, and tried to figure out what it was all about. I did not need to. It is, what it is. Just a visual narrative, and I made a story out of it, without there actually being one. This is a great insight into how just the correctly cropped images, can form just a massive impact on how we see something.

Plus this book is worth over $400, which is real nice to know now!


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