A Library of Unreadable Things: “The Art of the Book” at Seager Gray Gallery
The Arena: White Over Black or The Secret Wars of the CIA is inspired by Winthrop Jordan’s book, ‘White Over Black,’ where the author discusses the history of possible sources of racial tensions between white and African Americans.
Symbolized as an athletic competition in a sports arena, where the differences between the two races might be viewed through a single veil-like page from the book entitled, Veil; The Secret Wars of The CIA, inspired me to consider the racial conflicts between the two races that may be motivated, even instigated by a predominantly white government.
Incorporating these two themes, I physically cut into the original book, White Over Black, creating a miniature sports complex. The pages are cut into descending sections to represent stadium bleachers or auditorium seats. The sliced text reveals various disjointed words and phrases originally printed on the pages. This design metaphorically transforms the lines of the book into slogans pronounced by effusive sportscasters or outspoken fans cheering on their favorite team. White over black also refers to the quantity of white space or paper in relationship to the black ink of the printed text.
The top page with the words drilled out resembles a jagged veil or net, constricting the interior view of the book. In a number of sports competitions the net is used to catch the object in play, the ball. Instead of catching a ball in the artwork, the viewer’s attention is caught in the net trying to glimpse the space behind it. The viewer becomes inexorably drawn into the visual anomaly and spatial confusion of this miniature world, inviting the viewer to open the book and continue reading. The reader may carefully turn the ‘netting,’ then the following pages to see the empty space or coliseum below.
Trained as a filmmaker and photographer, Doug Beube turned to another narrative form in the late 1970s: books. Focusing on novels, reference volumes, atlases, and art monographs, he approaches each text as if it were a body or an archaeological site, as he explains: “Like a physician or an archaeologist, I am driven to examine it, to dissect it, to cut it open, to dig into it. I am compelled to unfix margins, make tomes weightless, empty volumes of their stories and twist a point of view into its opposite.” Through these processes, he turns the books into objects and sculptures, and incorporates their parts into his mixed-media works. He has, for example, transformed dictionaries into African masks. Beube both honors and critiques authors, re-crafting their words into works through which he comments on the state of the world.
Canadian-American, Hamilton, Canada, based in Brooklyn, New York