By Julius Friedman
Old Stone Press, $75.00, 132 pages
Destroying books has traditionally been seen as a brutal, almost inhumane, act. Is it possible that instead, book destruction can be turned into beautiful and inspiring works of art? That’s the premise behind a new book from distinguished designer and photographer, Julius Friedman. Titled simply, The Book, Friedman’s latest project is an art book made possible by the sacrifice of several other beautiful books for the pieces within.
“The Book project was inspired by Gail Gilbert, the art librarian at the University of Louisville Library, when she gave me a bag of books she was discarding,” Friedman noted. “She thought I could tear them up and make collages or an art project. I told her I was not a collage artist and, being a book designer, I could not tear them up. After months of them sitting in my basement and Gail saying, Do something with them,’ I made my first deconstruction and collage,” he added.
Those first collages grew into a body of work, and later, a limited edition of 20 books, all hand-sewn and hand-bound, using hand-set type, letterpress, and tipped-in photographs and a box made of cherry wood to house each copy. The “run” sold out immediately. “After that project, I continued to make collages and decided to do a coffee table book that people from all walks of life could afford, enjoy, and experience,” the artist added.
The result is stunning. In 130 beautiful photographs, Friedman gives his torn-apart and twisted books fascinating shapes and structures, some lit from within or without, ranging from the abstract to the concrete, and from the visceral to the intellectual. “I looked at the book from its beginnings to the current and emerging world of the Kindle and other electronic tablets, intuitively keeping in mind the sacred word, censorship, holding an object, its tactile way, even the smell of a book,” he stated.
The Book will be loved, ironically, by book lovers who will recognize how the artist has harnessed the tactile power of books and transformed them into new and moving forms for his art.