Weekly Update – Woodward’s world and Bookmobile

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This week’s Weekly includes my short review of Ben Woodward‘s solo at Spector and a short Q&A with Melissa Kramer of the Bookmobile/Mobilivre, the Space 1026 affiliate, now celebrating its fifth year of travelling the world instructing people about alternative book making. Here’s the link to the art page and below is the copy with some added photos.

Custom Woodward

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Ben Woodward‘s art, now on view at Spector.

I was hooked in 1999 when I saw the then-25-year-old artist’s four-color screen-printed posters of imaginary lost dogs and cats on boarded-up buildings and walls all over the city. Woodward’s wheatpasted urban-beautification project was wild, cheery and wonderful, and I’ve been writing about his work ever since.

[Ed. note: Woodward is one of the founders of Space 1026. For a great picture of the Space family, now celebrating its 8th year, check this. I don’t know who took the pic, maybe Space photographer Adam Wallacavage?]

The artist no longer plasters his art on the street, and his gallery work-printmaking and gouache-painting cartoons in the manner of Indian miniatures-has been getting stronger and bolder. In his third solo with Spector the artist bursts through to a new level of maturity, delicacy and clarity of vision.

(top image is “Now You Do Me” detail)

Woodward’s craftsmanship is superb. He paints on wood panels (cigar boxes, found wood and hollow doors that he saws into smaller pieces). His “every blade of grass must show” depiction coupled with the stylized body gestures and a new bright palette evokes pages from an exotic children’s storybook, one with sad-sack characters and a message about love and loss. Think Snuffy without his mom or Big Bird with a hangover. Some artists flee from putting too much of themselves in their work. Woodward, now a dad, nails his heart right up there on the wall in works that are achingly lovely.

The artist’s trademark animal-human hybrids have furry skin that unzips like clothing and tops that come off and can be traded in what looks like a game of musical heads. The crew strikes iconic poses, some of them religious, as in A Time to Share, which evokes the Pieta. As with the stylized Indian miniature paintings the artist so loves, the characters interact with each other with a delicacy of touch that’s not of this world. (image is “Wouldn’t it be Awesome” detail)

In fact, everybody seems to live on a mountaintop so bare that there’s nothing but these creatures and their bird friends. The message is clear: Focus on your family, focus on yourself, get your head straight, work on your heart and be with each other.
(image is “Time to Share” detail)

It’s a message both very close to Sesame Street and, with its undertow of sorrow, as far away as Hades.

[Ed note: the following sentence didn’t make it into the paper but I’m inserting it back in here.]

Laura Ledbetter‘s debut landscape paintings with tiny 3-D outcroppings in the back gallery are fine.

“Ben Woodward: LMNOP”
Through Nov. 11. Spector Gallery, 510 Bainbridge St. 215.238.0840.


sketches

[Ed note: The little airstream is going on one year hiatus after this — a long overdue vacation for it and for the collective who love it and take care of it. They invite you to their 5-year anniversary celebration at the Hazel House, 4634 Hazel Ave. in West Philadelphia. “Dance Party. No cover. Bookmobile open 9-11pm. Cake at 11!”]


Bookmobile/Mobilivre, a library of handmade books and zines in an Airstream trailer, has logged more than 65,000 miles and visited more than 150 cities in its five years of existence. It’ll be parked outside Space 1026 (its Philadelphia home) this Friday. From an email conversation with Bookmobile collective member Melissa Kramer:

How long were you on the road with the Bookmobile? Were there any surprises along the way?

“I toured for two weeks this year. Everyone always wants to know what we’re selling. It’s harder than you might think to convince people our main goal isn’t to make money off of them. Touring with the Bookmobile debunks assumptions about a ‘typical’ audience. I’ve seen the trailer go almost completely unnoticed parked outside of an infoshop or independent bookstore, only to be swarmed on a rural college campus where their art building could fit inside their stadium 100 times over.”
(image is Kramer (left) and Jen Corace outside the Bookmobile somewhere in Arkansas. Photo by Rick Valenzuela)

Do you make books?

“I tend to make books with a specific purpose in mind. I made a day planner for a friend that I’m really happy with, and I’m about to start work on a cookbook project.”

What’s your feeling on the scrapbooking movement?

“I think people are frightened by the level of separation that digitization puts between themselves and their ephemera, their memories, their written words. Scrapbooks, handmade books, zines, etc., can fulfill a visceral need for tangible ideas and tactile sensations in a way that digital media often doesn’t.”

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