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October 26 - November 30, 2002 at frumkin/duval gallery, Santa Monica

by Andy Brumer

The book, threatened as it has been in this century by radio, television, film and the internet, seems determined to survive as a staple of human expression, communication and knowledge. Doug Beube's sculptural/conceptual/installation/collage work (which he refers to as 'bookworks') in this exhibition is called Revision. Revision starts with the physicality of actual books, which the artist manipulates and alters via an exhaustless arsenal of creative art tactics. These include mauling, tearing, gauging, cutting, twisting, boxing, mounting and framing, among others.

In one series of reconfigured tomes titled Inflorescence, Beube literally plants eight torn pages from Webster's College Dictionary in layered stacks in a box of wheat grass. As the flowing plants grow over the partially buried paper, a feeling of ritual emerges as the acts of burial and fertilization become one. The piece also forges a characteristically poetic/metaphoric statement that revisions (clarifies?) the Biblical story of Genesis ("In the beginning was the word") by suggesting that the roots of all human knowledge have an earthy origin in the tactility of material things. Puns, which have been called the most base form of humor, permeate the work in this exhibition and become in Beube's handling an imaginative tool for investigating a host of religious, political, historical, aesthetic, sociological and personal subject matter.

In Borough for example, Beube sculpts the torn yellow and white pages from a found telephone book of Brooklyn, N.Y. (where the artist lives) into two mounds placed next to one another and mounted on wood bases. The pages adhere like strands of impenetrably thick hair on two people's heads, or like hills of bedrock rising from a tectonic plate. The piece invites viewers to metaphorically burrow through the coagulating pressures of a city like New York that squeezes its residents into condensed quarters. While such an environment homogenizes and undermines the idea of individuality the phone book, as a symbol, calls attention to the an actual and specifically individual human beings whose names fill the albeit obliterated pages.

In an artist's statement about this work Beube assumes the role of a Virgil guiding viewers though his labyrinthian pieces:

"I view the western codex, a book bound on one side, as a physical object susceptible not only to natural elements but to an artist's scrutiny. . . .Transforming the book into a unique visual object gives viewers an opportunity to participate in a critique or dialogue, engaging them in a way we appreciate sculpture, photography or painting. . . .If hard-pressed for a definition [of 'Book Art'], one might be: a container, either flat or dimensional, with its spatial and conceptual content bound together by braided cords or layers of thought, read by the hand and felt with the eye."

Each work in this show stands as a piece of a map or journey whose steps reveal a process of intellectual discovery, and whose variety illuminates evolved insights and inspired obsessions. In other words, this is very cool work.

“Inflorescence: Etymology (Webster's College
Dictionary),” 2002, found books/box/
earth/wheat grass, 16 x 20 x 15”.

“Borough (Brooklyn, New York, white
and yellow page sold together),” 2002,
found books/wood stands, 9 x 9 x 7”.

“Twisted Disaster," 2002, book.

“Spanish to English," 2002, book.