05 February 2015

Giving New Life - Collage at the Brookline Public Library

Accordion-fold book, detail.

Through February 9, 2015, the Brookline Public Library is hosting a small but delightful display of collages and hand-made books by Phoebe Ann Erb.  As the exhibit title implies, Ms. Erb gives new life to the material "remains of the day." (Quotations are from the artist's statement accompanying the exhibit.)

Ex-Libris collage, detail.

Many artists repurpose bits and pieces of books and printed ephemera into new creations.   Artist Ekaterina Panikanova reworks pages from old volumes into paintings; the new use of the pages underscores the archaism of their content.  Ms Erb uses "the ephemera of comings and goings," not of physical voyages but of the journey which objects, as well as processes, undergo in their peregrination from currency to obsolence.

The figure in the image above is kitted out in books - a literal constant reader - and surrounded by bits and pieces of the discarded systems of card catalog and manual book check-out.  As Ms. Erb says,
What better use for library discards? Old pockets with due-date cards? Antiquated card-catalog cards? Cut them up and put them in a collage.

Hand-made book.

Book with leaves of heavy fabric.

Ms. Erb's work is especially rich due her use of textiles as well as paper, giving her books and collages an unusual tactile appeal.  No material has special status - humble tablet paper forms a substrate for the artist's line drawings.

Collage on tablet paper.

Tiny hand-made books.

Every now and then, there is a special synergy between work and the container in which the work is displayed, and this is the case here, as Ms. Erb's art seems perfectly suited to the library's Foundation Case, with its pediment ornament of book, pen and ink bottle.

Foundation display case, detail. 

Although the Brookline exhibit is about to close, during the month of February there's another chance to view Ms. Erb's work, at the Newton Free Library, including books and collages which celebrate an ordering system which remains evergreen - the alphabet.

Alphabet book for all ages.

Pages of accordion-fold book.