What is a Contemporary Book?
For his first solo museum exhibition, Samuel Levi Jones: Unbound, Samuel Levi Jones transforms the Studio Museum's Project Space with a site-specific installation made of dismantled law books. When deconstructed into their basic components—covers and spines—the reference books’ implicit authority symbolically disintegrates. Stitched together in wall-to-wall grids, the fragmented books hang like paintings, emphasizing form and materiality. Once the books are stripped of their identity, their function and value are obscured, even negated. By manipulating law books, Jones engages with recent criticism of the American justice system.
If Jones’s project is of interest to you, check out these five contemporary artists who also work with books! Whether they doodle over the text or chop through the cover, these artists abstract the book’s traditional cultural role and physical form, as Jones does in Unbound.
Like Jones, David Ortiz appropriates reference books in his newest series "Law Journals, " which was recently shown in Chelsea at ArtNowNY. With roots in the graffiti culture of 1980s Brooklyn, Ortiz is a prominent figure in the street art and skateboard scenes. His fine art practice integrates the styles of graffiti and cartoons with the forms of ancient Classical sculpture and Modernists like Matisse. Interested in thematic and stylistic crossovers, Ortiz interrupts the strict typography of printed books with his exuberant drawings. Defacing the law books allows him to add a new layer of signification to pages abounding with definitions and regulations. As he layers on his insights, questions and doubts with ink, Ortiz demonstrates his noted desire to challenge authority and perceived limits in both life and art.