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  1. Book Artist of the Month: Roni Gross

    May 26, 2014 by Erin Fletcher

    TheNightHunter3-RoniGross

    The Night of the Hunter is another collaborative artist book between Roni Gross, Peter Schell and Nancy Campbell.

    The text comes directly from a poem by Nancy Campbell of the same title, which was based on her residency on a remote island off the coast of Greenland during the winter of 2010. Roni reinterprets the text as a visual pattern of drawn colored lines repeating as the language repeats creating a unique landscape housed within a palm leaf structure. The poem is written as a pantoum, where lines repeat in specific patterns.

    TheNightHunter5-RoniGross TheNightHunter6-RoniGross

    The book is paired with an interactive board game constructed from salvaged wood and game pieces made from found materials that have been shaped by Peter Schell. On Nancy’s blog, she explains these material elements of the artist book “are a perfect physical expression of the austere Arctic environment that I had tried to capture in the poem.

    TheNightHunter2-RoniGross

    The objects stored inside the rawhide pouch are meant to be placed in the depressions on the board. Can you describe the interaction between the reader, these objects and the story itself?
    This work is an example of our interest in having the viewer participate in the telling of the story by feeling the objects – stone, bone and metal – and then placing them on the game board. There are not a lot of raw materials in Greenland, and so the materials are found or repurposed. The wood of the covers is driftwood, the cordage is made from dogbane – a natural fiber, and the game board was found wood. By holding these object, materials that the night hunter might encounter, you are entering his realm. Your freedom to place the pieces as you wish involves you in the unfolding of the poem.


  2. Book Artist of the Month: Roni Gross

    May 19, 2014 by Erin Fletcher

    AnniversaryCommission-RoniGross

    Roni Gross crafted this celebratory gift for a couple’s 50th anniversary. The piece is housed in a birch plywood box distressed with milk paint and includes the stenciled word ‘TULIP’ in red. The text printed on the inside of the lid is a poem by Frank O’Hara called Having a Coke with You. 

    AnniversaryCommission2-RoniGross

    This is such a beautiful commissioned piece for a couple’s 50th anniversary. Can you talk about the relationship between the elements: poem, wooden typographic map and the book necklace?
    The couple are collectors of art glass, and are more visual than literary. The wife enjoys collecting wacky jewelry and so I thought that a book necklace would make sense for them. I am motivated by language however, and I told the daughter that I needed some text to start working from. The poem, by Frank O’Hara, is a avery New York poem, and we thought that a sculptural topographical map of a place in Riverdale would be an interesting reference for people that have lived their whole lives in NYC. The waterway provides the trough for the necklace to reside.

    AnniversaryCommission3-RoniGross

    – – – – – – – – – – –

    The text which makes up the poem by Frank O’Hara (see the poem in it’s entirety below) was printed, cut and sewn as a coptic structure along with monoprints. The wooden covers of the coptic book necklace have also been treated with milk paint.

    Having a Coke with You by Frank O’Hara

    is even more fun than going to San Sebastian, Irún, Hendaye, Biarritz, Bayonne
    or being sick to my stomach on the Travesera de Gracia in Barcelona
    partly because in your orange shirt you look like a better happier St. Sebastian
    partly because of my love for you, partly because of your love for yoghurt
    partly because of the fluorescent orange tulips around the birches
    partly because of the secrecy our smiles take on before people and statuary
    it is hard to believe when I’m with you that there can be anything as still
    as solemn as unpleasantly definitive as statuary when right in front of it
    in the warm New York 4 o’clock light we are drifting back and forth
    between each other like a tree breathing through its spectacles

    and the portrait show seems to have no faces in it at all, just paint
    you suddenly wonder why in the world anyone ever did them

    I look
    at you and I would rather look at you than all the portraits in the world
    except possibly for the Polish Rider occasionally and anyway it’s in the Frick
    which thank heavens you haven’t gone to yet so we can go together the first time
    and the fact that you move so beautifully more or less takes care of Futurism
    just as at home I never think of the Nude Descending a Staircase or
    at a rehearsal a single drawing of Leonardo or Michelangelo that used to wow me
    and what good does all the research of the Impressionists do them
    when they never got the right person to stand near the tree when the sun sank
    or for that matter Marino Marini when he didn’t pick the rider as carefully
    as the horse

    it seems they were all cheated of some marvelous experience
    which is not going to go wasted on me which is why I am telling you about it


  3. Book Artist of the Month: Roni Gross

    May 12, 2014 by Erin Fletcher

    SayingsOfTheBlind3-RoniGross

    Sayings of the Blind is an artist book by Roni Gross that includes the poem of the same name (see below) from the prolific William Stafford. The book unfolds to reveal a hand-drawn and letterpress printed topographical map, which interprets the world of the blind.

    Bound in 2010 in an edition of 50, Sayings of the Blind is part of the Stafford Collection, a curated collection organized by the 23 Sandy Gallery. The Stafford Collection includes any work that incorporate the poetry of William Stafford and/or Kim Stafford. 

    SAYINGS OF THE BLIND — William Stafford
    Feeling is believing.
    Mountains don’t exist. But their slopes do.
    Little people have low voices.
    All things, even the rocks, make a little noise.
    The silence back of all sound is called “the sky.”
    There’s a big stranger in town called the sun.
    He doesn’t speak to us but puts out a hand.
    Night opens a door into a cellar–
    you can smell it coming.
    On Sundays everyone stands farther apart.
    Velvet feels black.
    Meeting cement is never easy.
    What do they mean when they say night is gloomy?
    Edison didn’t invent much.
    Names have a flavor.

    SayingsOfTheBlind-RoniGrossSayingsOfTheBlind2-RoniGross

    The poem by William Stafford is plotted across the topographical map in such an ingenious way. What is the correlation between the map graphic and the text from the poem?
    After many mockups, most more complicated than the final book, I realized that the topographical map is referring to the landscape of the blind. It is a different landscape than seeing people are aware of, and by placing the text within it, we are taking you into that world.

    SayingsOfTheBlind4-RoniGross

    The texture of Suminagashi wonderfully reflects the shapes of a topographic map, was this your intention?
    I did realize that the Suminagashi was a nice parallel to the lines of the map without revealing too much from the beginning. I commissioned the paper from Yukari Hayashida, who teaches a class in Suminagashi at CBA (The Center for Book Arts).


  4. Book Artist of the Month: Roni Gross

    May 5, 2014 by Erin Fletcher

    ZitounaPress-RoniGross

    I See You Everywhere – 2003

    Roni Gross has successfully continued her project Zitouna over the course of 25 years. Twice a year, she creates a limited edition book or broadside which expands on the cultural ideas which emanate from Valentines Day and Halloween. The projects have explored a wide variety of themes from folklore and superstition to wordplay and mythology. 

    As a project that began in 1989, what was your initial inspiration for this ongoing work?
    The Zitouna pieces started as limited edition book-like objects made in honor of Valentines Day and Halloween each year. I chose those holidays because they are secular and thus inclusive. It began by an investigation of the origins of the traditions cross culturally, and then deepened over time to consider the seasons in which they occur – times of death and rebirth. 

    How do you find inspiration as you continue year by year?
    I have found this a very fruitful project that has led me to investigate alchemy, concepts about skeletal understanding throughout the ages, mythology and superstitions, to name a few topics. The deadline is a motivator and I have not yet felt that I am reaching the end of the possible topics for exploration.

    ZitounaPress4-RoniGross

    If Luvin’ You Is Wrong – 2008

    ZitounaPress5-RoniGross

    Alchemy – 2008

    ZitounaPress2-RoniGross

    A Very Valentine – 2010

    ZitounaPress3-RoniGross

    Lover’s Knot – 2009


  5. May // Book Artist of the Month: Roni Gross

    May 2, 2014 by Erin Fletcher

    Tikilluarit3-RoniGross

    Tikilluarit was created for the An Inventory of Al-Mutanabbi Street exhibition, which began in 2012, exhibiting nationally and internationally until 2015. The exhibition showcases a collection of artist books and broadsides that are a response to the explosion of a car bomb in Al-Mutanabbi Street, the historic center of bookselling and arts culture in Baghdad, back in March 2007. The exhibit came to Cambridge and was exhibited in three parts. Unfortunately, the session I attended did not included this particular work (I wrote a post about it).

    Tikilluarit is the collaborative work of three artists. But Roni Gross is the star of this post; her concept transformed a written piece into a conceptual binding. The sonnet, which makes up the text of the book, was recast from a Greenlandic series by Nancy Campbell titled “The Hunter Teaches Me To Speak” (originally published in Modern Poetry in Translation). The word ‘tikilluarit’ means ‘welcome’ in Kalaallisut, the native language in Greenland. The sonnet is as follows:

    The hunter teaches me to speak
    I place my fingers round his neck and feel
    his gorge rise – or is he swallowing
    his tongue? He wants to teach me the word
    for ‘welcome’. Suddenly, he’s trembling:
    his larynx rumbles, then his breath is gone.
    He asks me to remember those vibrations,
    and, anxious as a nurse who takes a pulse,
    touches my throat to judge its contortions.
    Will I ever learn these soft uvulars?
    I’m so eager, I forget that the stress
    always falls on the second syllable.
    My echo of his welcome is grotesque.
    He laughs, an exorcism of guillemets,
    dark flocks of sound I’ll never net, or say.

    Tikilluarit1-RoniGrossTikilluarit2-RoniGross

    The modified accordion binding was executed by Biruta Auna using calfskin while Roni designed and letterpress printed the text on Mitsumata paper.

    Tikilluarit is bound in such a way that offers little access to the interior parts of the book. How does the text and binding correlate to one another?
    The poem speaks about a person trying to mimic the sound of a word spoken by another person by placing a hand around the throat of the speaker. The spine side of the book was made to be as visually important as the text block, which serves in effect, as the throat of the book. The text moves up and into the spine as if going down the throat. The exposed sewing is similar to the anatomy of the vocal cords.

    Tikilluarit4-RoniGross

    The fourth collaborator is Peter Schell who crafted the unique sound sculpture that is paired with the deluxe edition of the book. In addition the deluxe edition includes a waxed linen wrap to house both the book and sound sculpture.

    Paired with the book is a wooden sound sculpture that can be activated by shaking it. What does the element of sound bring to the experience of this piece?
    The speaker in the poem says of the difficulty in learning to the language…”dark sounds that I will never net or say”. The wooden sculpture has an abstract wing pattern on the outside, which refers to an arctic bird which make a tinkling sound as its wings beat across the water. A sound that the human voice would not be able to replicate. It is another way of amplifying the words so that you can experience the poem in a physical way.

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    I went into this interview not knowing very much about Roni, her history, her work or her artistic outlook. Through the interview, I hope you come to realize what I have: that Roni has a great appreciation for her artistic community and brings together unique artists in collaboration to expand on the concept of the book by conjuring up the senses. Enjoy the interview after the jump and sign up to receive email notifications so you don’t miss a post throughout the month of May which will feature more of Roni’s work.

    read more >


  • Visit My Bindery
    My name is Erin Fletcher, owner and bookbinder of Herringbone Bindery in Boston. Flash of the Hand is a space where I share my process and inspirations.
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