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Judging Books By Their Covers at SBC Gallery of Contemporary Art

May 24, 2012

SBC Gallery

The current show at SBC Gallery of Contemporary Art features five artists whose work examines book covers, their design and context. Judging Books By Their Covers is a must see for anyone who is interested in the role of book covers and how they are placed on the shelf. How does the visual arrangement reveal one’s personality? What does it mean to have certain books grouped together? How about paperbacks versus hardcovers?

Judging Books By Their Covers exhibits the work of Marc Joseph Berg, Gayle Johnson, Hans-Peter Feldman, Lorraine Oades and R.B. Kitaj. Berg’s large scale photographs of the covers of books – displayed in a store, hanging from a clothesline or alone – are scattered throughout the show. Cowboys, for example, is a still life of The Book of Cowboys by Holling C. Holling, orange with the silhouette of a cowboy on the front, photographed in front of a white background. The photographs, larger than the books themselves, make us think about how books are presented and how it is different to see them side by side, or completely isolated.

Bookshelves, by Hans-Peter Feldman, is a five-panel work of black and white photographs mounted on aluminum Dibond. Seeing what might be the same bookshelf re-arranged and photographed five times makes one think about what is a book collection, how it is organized, and who it belongs to. In these photographs there are books standing upright, stacked on top of one another or leaning diagonally, as well as vinyl records, boxes and various trinkets. In one photograph, the top of the bookshelf has a display of toy boats, while in another there is a mini-Eiffel Tower.

La pièce de resistance, in my opinion, is Lorraine Oades’s work, Painted Theories of Modern Art Series. The series consists of twenty-nine paintings of book covers, or at least of parts of them, never the entire thing but always enough for the viewer to make out what they are. Iris Murdoch’s Sartre is here, along with Wittgenstein, Howl by Allen Ginsberg, New York’s Art World, De Stijl and other classic texts of Modernism. Oades, primarily a video and electronic artist, is here examining the discursive nature of painting.

Judging Books by Their Covers is a fantastic show because of the scope of the artists and the different ways they stimulate us to think about how we not only judge books by their covers, but people for their bookshelves.

SBC Galerie D’Art Contemporain, space 507
Marc Joseph Berg, Gayle Johnson, Hans-Peter Feldman, Lorraine Oades and R.B. Kitaj
Judging Books By Their Covers

April 14 – June 9, 2012

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