New exhibit unveiled at OU art gallery features artists’ books

Ledger paper hand cut with a single-edged razor blade, brick-shaped books compiled of magnetically bound pages and a checkbook with all of the pages painted over.

These are just some of the works in the Oakland University Art Gallery’s new exhibit, “The Art of the Artist’s Book.”

Director Dick Goody said artists’ books have become prevalent only recently, but have been around since the 19th century when William Blake, the English poet, bound his books together.

“The artist’s book has really come of age in the last 20 years,” Goody said.

The OUAG exhibit is a survey of more than 20 artists.

“We wanted to include as many book forms as possible,” Goody said.

The works are meant for “one pair of eyes at a time,” but Goody said there’s something for everyone.

Most of the installations, such as the figure 8 of shoes by Canadian artist IAIN BAXTER&, are one of a kind. Each shoe in this work is stuffed with a book.

Others, like “Root Words: An Alphabetic Exploration” by Lynne Avadenka and Mohamed Zakariya, are mass-produced. Using seven similar Hebrew and Arabic words, it tries to find a link between Judaism and Islam.

“The idea was to look for commonalities of language, not divisive elements,” Avadenka said. The Huntington Woods artist is showing three other works.

Some of the works are interactive. One installation includes a bookshelf that holds hundreds of drawings by Dennis Michael Jones, an artist from Plymouth complete with a chair and coffee maker.

“I wanted to create an environment that would be conducive to someone sitting down and reading,” Jones said.

There’s also a collaborative work called “Let’s talk about love baby” by Chido Johnson. The work is made up of 40 books by as many artists, each a pastiche of romance novels.

“Art tends to be serious, but some of it is quite accessible,” Goody said.

On Feb. 14, Skype will be projected on the wall and the artists involved in Johnson’s project will be on to discuss their work.

The opening reception is Friday, Jan. 8 from 5 to 8 p.m. The exhibit will run from then until April 4. There will also be a panel discussion, but there is no set date as of yet.

“If you’re interested in books and you’re interested in art, or if you’re just interested in one of those things, this exhibition will speak to you,” Goody said.