I visited MCBA this afternoon to discuss the MCBA prize with MCBA Artistic Director Jeff Rathermel in preparation for an article I'm writing for Bonefolder (an e-journal for book artists). Because I came in the back door, I entirely missed the lobby exhibit of the five finalists' books. So Jeff and I walked back to the lobby and took a look at the books up close.
Capturing an artists' book through just a few images is a particular challenge. So it was epecially great to see the finalist books in person. Julie Chen's book Panorama is impressive first just in its size (in the case it is 41" across; it opens to 60"), but as is typical of her work, the size fits the message. There are no gimmicks in what she does.
Avalanche by Clifton Meador is a bit harder to grasp through the glass of the case. It has an intriguing layout and was printed offset which allows for some new possibilities in content and layout. Jan Owen's Requiem has all the beauty of a truly handmade object. The paper is from Cave Paper and the text is hand-calligraphed in gouache and ink. Bomb by Simon Eddington appears to be a classic in the tradition of woodblock layouts. Besides Julie Chen's book, I was most intrigued by Veronika Schäpers' Durs Grünbein: 26°57,3’N, 142º16,8’E. The size and format of the book are fairly standard, but she printed the book on papers which are almost luminous and so thin as to be impossible to get through a press. The book is complemented by a clear vellum cover and an acrylic box.
The really fun news is that the books will be out of the exhibit case on Saturday, July 25 when the MCBA prize is awarded. That means pages can be turned and the book truly explored. At the moment, the three jurors have been working off of images and conferencing by phone. They'll come in to Minneapolis on Friday, July 24 and see the books in person and make their final decision then.
You can see more pictures of the finalists' work here, as well as pictures of all of the books that were entered. The MCBA Prize will be given out every other year as part of the Book Art Biennial.