Friday, June 25, 2010

Lost for Words by Peter Fraser

My dream world is almost completely empty of all possessions. When I fantasize about the perfect home, it is almost monastic in appearance. It is flooded with light, has a small library, perhaps a few pieces of artwork sparsely punctuating a couple walls, my cat (the only chaos), a large bed, and the warming presence of someone I love. There is little, if any, bric-a-brac. The world Peter Fraser describes in his photographs is the one I hold at bay. His new book from the FFotogallery in Wales Lost for Words is for me, a decent into one version of hell.

That may sound extreme, hell, but looking at all of the objects he describes in his books my mind reels with the well intentioned but ultimately disturbed creations that surround us daily. Fraser thrusts our noses inches from things which might seem familiar at first and while seducing with color and a straightforward view, he accentuates their decay or artifice.

Looking at his photos I remember the same sinking feeling I used to get as a child when I would pull my N-gauge train set from under my bed only to find that within a short time the small foliage and resin lake, which I labored over to reconstruct reality and suspend disbelief, had been covered in a fine layer of dust and cat hair. It all seemed futile. No longer could I become completely captivated by that miniature world when the locomotive would emerge from the mountain tunnel hauling a huge dust bunny.

When Fraser published his book Material in 2002 I was less disturbed. That work felt partially contained within laboratories and work spaces sealed off from my usual environs. Thus, I could contain it - my mind told me 'that is there, I am here.' With much of his other work though, there is no comforting barrier, I am here, it is here too - just look down at the floor. I want to escape into the blue of the bird's egg in one of his images but those damn thorns and the scraped gold edge of the picture frame just above it keep escape impossible. Those loaves of bread made of foam are harmless yet the color (jaundiced skin?), and the wrinkles make me slightly nauseous.

Just like with the train set of my past, there is a pleasure in disrupting the scale of things. In Fraser's pictures it is a stylistic language he employs that teases the mind. It takes a moment to understand the relationship of these often physically small objects to the larger world. Not enough information is given to know the full answer. We are left grappling, lost for words.

I try to decipher the chalk markings that appear on the side of a red bookcase in the last plate of the book but thankfully their logistical meaning is beyond my grasp - if they weren't, I might be of a mind to follow their direction and descend further. Instead I still have the option to close the book and safely contain this madness. A blue spine peeking from a shelf is less disturbing - it can now coexist with my dream world.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A)rt B)ook C)ologne

Home again. Back to work, real life, less k├Âlsch (more Brooklyn lager) and maybe the occasional blog post. While in Amsterdam, Prague and Germany I managed to find another 32 pounds of books. I checked the delivery status of my first shipment to find it arrived to the Errata office in Chelsea. Yesterday after coming from the airport I ran over to pick the books up only to find the sturdy well packed box nearly transformed into the shape of a ball. Crushed corners, one seam on the side fully open to where you could see the bubble wrapped books inside (customs treatment??) and to my horror... a sign that moisture had creeped up one side like the box had sat in a puddle.

With my trembling hands I tore the box open cursing DHL and as I started unpacking the books I was amazed that only one title out of the 16 had suffered during shipping, the rest were safe and sound.

Some of the titles I shipped in that package had come from Bernd Detsch of Art Book Cologne which I have mentioned here on 5B4 before when I was in Cologne last year. Art Book Cologne is a remainder house on Deutzer Freiheit 107 across the Rhein from the city center. If you visit Cologne I strongly suggest you make a visit. Bernd has been dealing in the business for years and has a great selection of books at big discounts. If you ask nicely, maybe he will let you walk through the warehouse and among the palettes of books, many are titles not listed on his regular site but ones he sells at good prices on-line through ABE and other listing sites. He also has his own private collection of artbooks that are not for sale in the back which would make anyone envious.

It's pretty fascinating to see what becomes a remainder, or what gets discovered in a warehouse somewhere and turns up at his place. For instance, the huge stack of Anthony Hernadez's Landscapes for the Homeless (Volume 1) - a book I had on my want list for some time now. He has them in mint shape for 40 euros.

Last year Art Book Cologne was where I found several Christian Boltanski books, a great El Lissitsky reprint of About 2 Squares, Ilya Kabokov's My Mother's Album, and several others. This year I found a great 1990 catalog of photography by the late Sigmar Polke from the Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden, shrink-wrapped copies of the two-volume Richard Prince Paintings and Photographs from 2002 and Marcel Broodthaers Texte et Photos from 2003.

For me, as an American, even with the added shipping costs it is a chance to get some great deals on European remainders which would be rather expensive in the States. Check them out here.