Ever encounter a book excavation? Well, wait until you see these amazing works! 23 Sandy is pleased to share a new artist to the gallery, James Allen. This remarkable young artist recently moved to Portland and brought in some of the most intriguing and popular works we’ve ever had in the gallery. His work draws ooohs and aaahs and curious questions from nearly everyone—young and old—who visits the gallery.
A “book excavation” is a sculptural work of art made by transforming various types of old books using precise cuts with a scalpel or knife, carving pages one by one until an astonishing new composition reveals itself. This almost surgical focus of dissecting books results in a wholly new object infused with a graphical history that evolves as the artist exposes each layer of the book while cutting around interesting images or text. For most artists working in this remarkable medium, the process is performed without pre-planning or mapping out the contents before cutting into the books pages and/or covers. Finished book excavations often appear as cross sections of the book, carved to create an alternate universe previously hidden between the covers.
About his Skulduggery piece, Allen tells us, “I opened this tome of DC Comics somewhere in the middle, laid it flat, and cut down through the pages of both the front and back covers. Through the right panel we see the distant past and as the pages go deeper we see more and more recent images. While the left panel shows the most recent images and the deeper pages reveal images from further in past. In this way the pages of the book show a condensed history of all the 75 years of DC Comics all in one vignette. I particularly like the image of the Twin Towers in the upper right portion of the left panel and how it relates to the dichotomy of good vs. evil and hero vs. villain.”
Just last week Allen delivered three new pieces to the gallery. One is an 1950’s-era American Red Cross handbook (shown at right) and the other is a 1976 Texas Instruments TI-30 calculator handbook, titled One Possible Solution. These two books are most intriguing as they have been left unsealed so that the pages can be flipped through to see the cutting process. This is fascinating as many book excavation pages are sealed to stabilize the book and make the pages inaccessible.
Another of Allen’s book excavations was created using the book Historic Costume in Picture. Allen tells us, “Originally it was a soft cover, but I decided to give it a hard cover before I began the cutting into it. This is one of the rare cases where I added something to an existing book. In the end I also decided to add some gold leaf to the inside edge of the cut cover. All of the pages lie how they were originally bound. The book includes images of men and women in historic costumes through the ages but I decided to focus on the costumes of women throughout history.”
You can see more of James’ work here on his 23 Sandy online catalog, or stop by the gallery soon to see them in person.