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Woodcut Hardcover – May 2, 2012
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It's a strangely moving experience to flip through Woodcut (Princeton Architectural Press, $30), a book of Bryan Nash Gill's relief prints of tree-trunk cross sections, which the artist harvests from felled trees, cedar telephone poles and discarded fence posts in his native Connecticut. One is struck by how Gill's method - cutting blocks with a chain saw, sanding them down, burning them and sealing them with shellac - amplifies the events in the life of a tree: lightning strikes, burgeoning burls, insect holes and, of course, the aging process, evidence of which radiates out in transfixing patterns. Verlyn Klinkenborg , who also writes for The New York Times, describes these cross sections in the book's preface as "the death mask of a plant, the sustained rigor mortis" of maple, spruce and locust. They remind us, he says, that every biological form "possesses a unique footprint." --- T: The New York Times Style Magazine
"With this mesmerizing series, Bryan Nash Gill doesn't just bridge the gap between abstraction and representation, object and subject-- he closes them. WOODCUT confirms Gill's place as one of the most inventive, inspired artists working today" -- Tod Lippy, Esopus magazine
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Orginals of the author's work are available for +- $4000.00. This is out of my range. Some of the art books I want on my coffee table, perhaps printed in America, are now OOP and available in the used book market for > $200. Your call on whether you would be able to buy Woodcut if it were printed in America at the ideal size for its content.
If you liked / already own One Tree, by Garry Olson & Peter Toaig, you'll love Woodcut. If you love Speck, by Peter Buchanan-Smith, you'll love Woodcut. If you own both of Bruce Hoadley's books about wood, Woodcut will add more to your understanding of this material.
The book is what it is, a collection, probably not complete, of one artist's fascination with the most basic form of woodcut. Who'da thought there was that much to see, to know? I don't care what grows in Connecticut, particularly. (Not all that different from central NC, except we use holly and juniper where they have yew.)
Usefully, to me, the interview / explanation at the end of the book provides a lot of detail about how the prints are made and how the artist works. Inventory management is, to me, the most interesting part of many (non-painting) artists' work; how do they keep and manage the material that becomes their artwork? Gill shares.
I've put Woodcut on the shelf above my desk I look at every day, next to Art and Fear (as a perfect example of "find a way of working and follow it"). I may not take it off the shelf every day but simply looking at the spine reminds me there's way more art within arm's reach than I have even scratched the surface of making. I'm pretty sure the author and publisher didn't not intend to create a book of creative inspiration, but it's way more useful, again to me, perhaps not to you, in this line than ANY of the "improve your creativity with these 20 exercises" genre.
I am VERY happy I was able to get a copy of this book.
I don't ordinarily buy an art book without having first seen it; however, the review coupled with the publisher (Princeton) made this a compelling choice.
I was so excited about its arrival that I even blurted out to a bookseller I know that I had just purchased a fantastic new book title 'Woodcut' etc.; a brag that I reserve for my best finds/sales.
Upon opening the packaging, I was immediately disappointed by the small size of the book (at the time of pre-ordering I didn't see any size stated).
Folks!!! This book is only approximately 10" x 10" in size (and maybe 3/4" thick in approx. 120 pps.): A laughably small size when you consider that some of the prints the author made were more than 4 FEET per side.
As such, you can imagine how small the actual reproductions are. In fact, only a single, solitary print even spills onto a second page and it doesn't fill it. The editors even went so far as to cram as many as four reproductions on to a single page: Not excusable.
The printing and binding of this book were done in China. Once again, nobody who cares about producing an art book is going to send the job to China for, her production skills are just not up to snuff at this time.
Here's why the points I have just made about this book are critical. One of the things I had wished for in this book was that the artist had taken on the task of reproducing a wide variety of tree species that occur around his studio. In other words, I had hoped a high art book with a scientific/naturalist angle enabling a reader to see, in cross-section, the species of the forest as found in his neck of the woods, Connecticut.
This the artist failed to do. He, instead, chose to reproduce pretty patterns. Again, this would have been great, but for the diminutive size of the book and prints and the less than stellar quality of the paper and reproductions. As such, these are mildly interesting but do not in any way do justice to the underlying death mask, I think.
For me, a lover and collector of art books, this book is a bit like that porridge served to David Copperfield, I, though, won't ask for more, sir!
What surprises me most about Woodcut is just how much artistry Gill has wrought from a basic cross-section of a tree. He is like a good reporter, reporting only what he sees, but he manages to embellish every woodblock with personal flair. Some of the relief prints are starkly elemental while others look like organic components of a still living being. None come across as synthetic or overdone. Even rotting segments of wood are fascinating and tell a story.
And when he combines elements to create "sculptures" and stacks, Gill proves himself to be someone whose life in art is well worth following.