View of the exhibition Odd Volumes: Book Art from the Allan Chasanoff Collection, Yale University Art Gallery. Photo courtesy Yale University Art Gallery.
Allan Chasanoff is a collector, of photographs, ceramics, ties and 3000 versions of the hymn "Amazing Grace" to name a few. He likes to see how objects relate to one another and he collects items in cycles, usually lasting for two decades at a time, before he tires of them. In 1990, he turned his expansive attention to books. He loves books and calls them "fantastic things."
A Yale alumnus, Chasanoff has given his book collection as a gift to the Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven and his "Odd Volumes" will be exhibited until Sunday, February 1, 2015. This student curated show examines volumes from all angles, both subjectively and objectively.
The oldest work dates back to 1826, a "portable traveling library," that looks like a book within a book, fifty volumes in miniature in a wooden bookcase. His interest in media and the destiny of books in a computerized world has led him to explore if technology threatens the very existence of books. "Odd Volumes" will be on display in a 100 different artistic entities that will fascinate and repel you, amaze and confound you but always challenge your perceptions.
Entering the space, you will encounter "The Necessity of Friction" by Mary Ziegler, with a book substituting as a needle on a sandpaper phonograph. You're encouraged to turn it on, but beware of the scratchy sounds that escape. As you travel through the room, you will find examples of book sculptures made of comic and coloring books, paperbacks, an atlas and cigarette cases. They have been transformed by cutting, tearing, pasting and painting. Some have been modified and changed by exposure to eggs, honeycomb, seaweed, bullet holes, pheasant feathers, spider webs, worm holes and even dead mice, birds and turtles. The effects of natural elements like hurricanes, fires and floods are evident.
These altered books include such diverse displays as Linda Ekstrom's "Labyrinth," ribbons of print exploding from a Bible, Byron D. Clerox's words of Sigmund Freud glued to a polished baseball bat, Daniel Gantes; "zzzbook," a cotton paged book like a pillow that invites readers to curl up for a nap and Tara O'Brien's transformation of the book "Documentation" into a living holder of barley seeds.
Along the way, you will see Donald Lipski's metal racing care model with a Funk and Wagnalls dictionary at the center, Icelandic/Danish artist Olafur Eliasson's unique laser cut artist's book of modern houses displayed architecturally as well as a hodge-podge collage by French artist Danielle Marie Chanut made of shells, stones, mirrors, keys, chains and animal pieces.
Imagine a cut and fused collection of books on the Dalai Lama, atomic energy and paradise, a tribute to Yoko Ono and John Lennon and a book made of fungus. You will see a totem pole of pages, a can of words not worms, a Grand Canyon-like phenomenon cut into twelve volumes, an inviting reading chair and ottoman of bamboo and metal threads and a book from France baked with flour and peppers.
There is even a Rube Goldberg-type contraption housed in a metal suitcase by John Roach, "Pageturner," with fans, lights and a TV that offers a chance to read Mark Twain and a red pleated sailcloth skirt from Japan that conjures up the Wizard of Oz. If you look carefully, you'll even discover a golden egg like a secret treasure. A towering waterfall of words by Scott McCarney encourages you to look for your own name among America's Who's Who. Books of lead sheets, glass, cloth and stones abound.
Be fascinated, as Allan Chasanoff is, by this eclectic collection of altered books. You may even be inspired to create a sculpture of your own.