The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Wednesday, May 18, 2022

You can tell a book by its cover in this exhibition at the Grolier Club
Pilar N Calahorra Moreno de la Santa, Happy Abstract. Bound in 2019. First Place Prize Winner in the Set category.

NEW YORK, NY.- A Design Binding is a singularly-considered and beautifully executed book covering—a unique work of art that both evokes the content of the book, and reveals the passion, design sense, and skill of the binder. By applying technique in order to uncover the essence of a book, the binder transforms the book through artistic interpretation.

OPEN SET, on public view at the Grolier Club from February 19 to April 25, 2020, is an exhibition based on a competition, the title reflecting the two categories in which binders may compete—the OPEN category, in which the artist chooses which book to bind, and the SET category, in which all participants bind the same book.

The exhibition features a juried collection of 100 recently-created book covers submitted by artists from around the world, a definitive statement on excellence in fine binding today. The show is made up of winners of the OPEN SET 2020 binding competition, a triennial event sponsored by the American Academy of Bookbinding, whose purpose is to encourage both new binders and professionals globally. The design bindings on display were juried by the renowned American binders Monique Lallier, Mark Esser and Patricia Owen.

The Set Category book—the text of a letter by William Blake entitled Happy Abstract— was conceived and printed by fine press printer Russell Maret. “Blake’s letter seemed a perfect fit for the project. It is a short text that is full of evocative visual prompts. allowing me to lay the book out with only one line of text per page. The text begins high up on the page and progressively works its way one line lower down the page with each spread, until ending just at the bottom,” explains Mr. Maret.

The submissions shown in this category are unique and each cover is different, though all of the textblocks are the same. “It is not often that binders are presented with the opportunity to express their artistic interpretations throughout the pages of the book; as you see in this exhibition, they were encouraged to do so with exceptional results,” notes Lang Ingalls, exhibition coordinator.

The Open Category titles submitted were chosen by the binders themselves. There are books on display in French, German, Spanish and English, a variety that echoes the number of foreign entries in the show. The sizes of the books range from miniature (less than 3 inches tall) to just above quarto, or about 12 inches tall. The idiosyncratic offerings in this category include unusual patterns of gilding, as well as unique structures and materials.

A book’s cover is, in essence, an invitation to explore its content. “OPEN SET demonstrates the ways in which a binder’s invitation can be recognizable or abstracted, visually unsettling or charming—in artistic terms, calculated to spark conversation, comment, and curiosity,” observes Ms. Ingalls.

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