Harmonograph by James Allen -SOLD!

Harmonographs were originally constructed during the Victorian Era as novelty items to create visual illustrations of patterns found in music. This book excavation features layers of such illustrations in a shallow relief format. In these patterns we can explore principles such as harmonics, overtones, and resonance. The harmonograph pictured in this work is of the three pendulum format. A two pendulum format can create unique illustrations as well. These machines are fascinating from a musical, mathematical, and artistic perspective. Must see TV! Oregon Art Beat, a weekly arts program on Oregon Public Broadcasting, has a fascinating segment about James Allen and his book excavations. Great video showing the process behind his art, in an in-depth, accessible manner. Watch it here.


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.

Artist Bio

James Allen lives and works in Portland, Oregon. His book excavations have been featured in exhibitions across the country including the Brooklyn Public Library, Cameron Art Museum, Watcom Museum, and San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art. His work can be found in collections including UCLA, University of Puget Sound, Ringling College of Art and Design, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, and Johns Hopkins University.