by Pamela Landau Connolly •
The CODEX VIII International Book Fair is a biennial event organized by the Codex Foundation, whose mission it is to showcase the hand-made art book in all its forms. The fair was originally scheduled for 2021, but like many things, was postponed a year due to the Pandemic. With COVID precautions in place, I was delighted to participate as an exhibitor when Codex again opened to the public, April 10th-14th, 2022.
For the past 4 cycles, the Codex Book Fair has taken place at Craneway Pavilion in Richmond, California. The 45,000 square-foot, mostly glass structure was built in 1931, as an assembly plant for Ford Motors. It sits on the waterfront and is surrounded by epic views of San Francisco Bay. Inside were over 200 well-spaced tables filled with book artists, publishers, and vendors from all over the world. It was a light-filled wonderland for lovers of books and art.
For me, a highlight of attending Codex was sharing a table with fellow artist and friend, Amanda Marchand, our table photo above. Amanda makes the most beautiful photo books, many of them published by Datz Press. Her most recent, ‘The World is Astonishing with You in It: A 21st Century Field Guide to the Birds, Ferns and Wildflowers’ is an ode to endangered flora and fauna of North America.
Having recently completed ‘Fly in Amber’, an artist book about daughters with a 19th Century spin, Codex was a great place for me to introduce it to the art book market. Here I found a sophisticated audience, full of artists, writers, designers, academics, librarians and book collectors. It gave me an opportunity to discuss my intention and process for this project that was eight years in the making. It was gratifying to see so many people connect with the universal story of letting go.
One perk of having a table-mate is that it allows you to give one another the chance to walk around the floor and look at the plethora of amazing books being made. So much to see and not enough time! Here are two awe-inspiring photo books that stood out as both books and art objects.
Cirkut, by Chris McCaw
McCaw creates landscape photographs that incorporate the movement of the sun, burning its path into vintage photo paper exposed with a 1913 ‘Cirkut’ large format camera. These images were made in Alaska during the summer when the sun never sets.
“It’s an amazing experience to be so aware of the circular rotation of our planet as you watch the sun seemingly cycle all the way around you in the sky without ever setting. I wanted to capture that majestic motion, and the Cirkut camera became the logical tool.” –Chris McCaw
Datz Press is known for their deep collaboration with photographers, designers, and bookmakers. This can be felt in the details of this book. The double-sided accordion foldout of two sun rotations, the artist’s notes on the work, and an exposure test strip made from the same vintage photographic paper used in the original exposures, are all included in in a wooden box with a metal slide cover that operates like the slide in a large format film holder. Simple, pure, elegant.
Staged Geometries by Paula McCartney
Paula McCartney is a photographer and bookmaker who uses ceramics in her practice. Her work explores the natural world and constructed environments, and how light interacts with objects in these 2 dimensional and 3 dimensional spaces.
“Staged Geometries is a deconstructed artist book that allows the viewer to assemble its elements into an installation. This sculptural object uses the language of black and white analog photography to explore the interconnectedness of positive and negative and presence and absence. The installation varies depending on which photographic background is chosen by the viewer as well as any artificial or natural light that allows the ceramic to cast an additional shadow on the stage floor or wall.” — Paula McCartney
It is difficult to convey the experience of looking at this completely original book. It is to be experienced, in motion, on its stage. A video made by McCartney at the fair does a great job of describing it.
In addition to the vast array of artist books in the Pavilion floor there were vendors selling handmade paper, tools, and accessories for bookmakers. One such vendor was Shanna Leino who manufactures a small line of hand tools for bookbinders and craftspeople. What I loved about Shanna’s table was the re-purposed objects that she transformed into tools. There were mother-of-pearl butter knives for tearing paper, parts of Victorian fans made of bone for folding, and beautiful old scissors.
Honestly, Codex was a whirlwind of visual information to process. In writing this review I’ve come across so many things that I missed. I guess the take-away for me is that I would love to attend again, setting aside more time to wander and discover.
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