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Gallery dedicated to book art opens in Brooklyn

Commercial venture shows growing popularity of the medium

New york. In tune with a growing interest in print and book art, a new pop-up gallery has opened in Brooklyn's DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) neighbourhood dedicated to the art form. Called Central Booking, the space is the brainchild of Maddy Rosenberg, a book artist and independent curator who has worked in the field for more than two decades, and hopes to further expose the versatility of the medium to the art world at large.

"My definition of the book is very expansive and inclusive," says Rosenberg. "When an artist says they're making a book, that's my parameter." As a result, Central Booking bears little resemblance to a traditional book store. The first of the gallery's two rooms is reserved for curated shows of work by artists who make prints but also explore other mediums; the current show, "Natural Histories", contains pieces ranging from a sawbox by Steven Daiber that is filled with pine cones wrapped in wood prints of a natural history text ($5,000), a non-print-related installation of scavenged metal and natural debris by Judy Hoffman ($25,000), and a limited-edition copy of “A Book of Works”, an unfinished 1993 book of poems and photographs by Ana Mendieta (loaned by the artist's foundation, it is the only piece in the gallery not for sale).

The second room is devoted strictly to print and book art in all its multiplicity. Pieces range from $2 zines to books pressed on metal sheafs, three-dimensional print dioramas, and books displayed on video. The costliest work is a one-off by British artist duo Kahn + Selesnick, whose multidisciplinary books consist of an original fictional narrative presented both in text and in panoramic, digitally enhanced photographs of the artists enacting their story with elaborate costumes and props. Priced at $100,000, the striking blue leatherbound book is the length of a park bench and requires two white-gloved attendants to open—"a performance in itself", says Rosenberg.

In total, the gallery offers work by 130 artists, with others including Mary Frank, Joan Snyder and Jay Bolotin, whose book of woodcut prints comes with a CD recording of an original opera he composed.

With book art appearing more and more regularly in exhibitions and art fairs over the past year—and with Gagosian gallery opening its own Madison Avenue shop of artists' books and limited editions—there are signs that the recession-friendly medium has been slowly gaining traction. "I feel the most dynamic, interesting, experimental work is going on in books because it doesn't have a huge tradition or baggage," says Rosenberg. "You have a younger generation that grew up with technology and takes it for granted and is not wowed by it, and they are going back to more tactile things, they're very excited about that. And there's also the intimacy of the book." True to the provisional spirit of the times, Central Booking is located in the second-storey space previously occupied by Safe-T-Gallery, whose lease Rosenberg bought out when they closed. After that expires in six months, Rosenberg intends to continue the gallery in a venue yet to be determined. "Sure I would love to sell the works and keep going and help the artist survive as well, but for me it's not about making lots of money, it's about keeping the project going," she says.

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