Gaspard presents “Beholder”
This Friday, December 6, the public is invited to Gaspard for the official introduction of Beholder, a carefully composed book created by Chris Cox, Ben Biondo, and Jacob Bullard. It consists of 56 pages, 42 color images, and a mere 21 words (if you don’t count the frontispiece and title page).
Bullard’s textual contribution, while not captions or titles, is not exactly poetry either. The collaboration is reminiscent of the particular kind of exchange that occurred in Southern Song Dynasty, during which collectors and artists traded paintings for study and collection, some of which would be bound in albums, many enhanced by the contribution of poetry that was inspired by the image.
Beholder is a fitting title. The etymology of the word is bihaldan, meaning, “to thoroughly hold”, and we are encouraged to hold with both our hands and our gaze. The experience that one has with a book is intimate and tactile, very different than encountering a display of images arranged on walls. The reader can control the pace at which he/she progresses through the images, moving forward or backwards, instinctively filling-in the “gaps” between images in an attempt to formulate a narrative.
Beholden is cinematic in its variation of compositions that include tightly cropped figures, images in which the figure is difficult to discern, and natural or created atmospheric effects. Some of the most compelling images are those in which the natural setting is the primary subject, a departure from Cox and Bullard’s earlier series Spiritual Lake, in which setting is secondary to the human subject.
Several photographs are reminiscent of romantic landscape paintings by Casper David Friedrich. Ana Mendieta’s Silueta Series (1973-1980) shares similarities, particularly those in which the figure is camouflaged by shadows or dappled lighting. Alec Soth is clearly an influence, particularly the Broken Manual series exhibited at the Cranbrook Museum last year,(“Come for the Eggs, Stay for the Sociopaths” ), however Beholder’s characters are humble and human, unlike Soth’s tragic heroes or Mendieta’s goddess archetype.
Cox’s photographs provide the flesh for this project, but Biondo’s design is definitely the bones. Pagination is indicated with Roman numerals, and images are numbered with Arabic numerals, but it’s not always apparent which numbers correspond to images or pagination, and not every image has a corresponding word.
The artist’s book format allows for experimentation with graphics that is otherwise rarely experienced, because generally speaking, non-designers do not appreciate unconventional design (an analogy to this is Philippe Starck’s Juicy Salif, which is admired by industrial designers, but not functional). Graphic design is often regarded as a peripheral element, but in Beholder the design choices are critical; conventional image/text hierarchy is definitely shuffled, interrupting the manner in which we normally experience a book, forcing the reader to see and consider elements otherwise ignored.
The edition is limited to 150 copies, and is certain to sell-out. Beholden can be purchased at Gaspard.
The opening reception for Beholder is Friday, December 6, from 6-11PM
Gaspard is located at 235 South Division Avenue, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
The event is free and open to the public.