Briefcase bound artist book, original collages, 15 x 11 x 2 inches, unique. $1100
Bound artist books, original collages, leather case, 10 x 10 x 10 inches, unique. $5000 Contact Gallery
Leather purse bound artist book, original collages, 12 x 9 x 5 inches, unique. $1100
Karl Mann had been investigating collage for more than three decades when he turned his attention to creating hand-made books in the late 1990s. These books radicalized his approach to image making even as they made more explicit and elaborate reference to the transmission of images and their narrative readings. Mann had originally pursued a sculptural collage aesthetic closer in spirit to assemblage art, which he also subsequently developed. With the book format, he chose to deal with images exclusively, combining them according to their psychological suggestiveness and the strong cultural associations they carried. All his imagery is appropriated from books, magazines, and other print sources. The elements are combined according to a rigorous design sense and a desire to produce shocking juxtapositions that open up psychic, political and cultural narratives. These provocations are leavened with a good deal of humor. Mann has given special attention to the covers of these books, each one referencing through its materials and size a particular set of associations. The choice to bind the book in the carcass of a patent leather purse or in denim or faux fir or in massive boards covered by industrial canvas echoes the camp strategies of Pop art and fashion but it also emphasizes the found, recycled character of his images and beyond that of all communication. We are inundated with a sea of images, a chaos of forms promising significance. Karl Mann’s books reconvene those images as poignant, open-ended narratives and unite them in bindings that encourage us to consult their contents as oracles, as repositories of a wisdom we can neither fully decipher nor resist.
Karl Mann was born in Chicago in 1940. At an early age he was a resident of an orphanage where he remained until his high school years. His graduation marked the end of his formal schooling and initiated an extended period of crisscrossing the country between Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, where he finally settled. He held a series of part time jobs and lived hand to mouth, but it was during this period that he began making mosaics, which would form the foundation for the assemblage aesthetic that he has developed throughout his life. In the 1960s he met Jack Lenor Larsen and under his inspiration began a successful career in interior design. His firm, Karl Mann Associates, pioneered a collage approach to interior design groupings that earned widespread recognition. At the same time, he continued to pursue his own art, in sculpture, collage and hand-made collage books. Entirely self-taught, Mann has followed a distinctive artistic path, combining elements of the work of Robert Rauschenberg, Joseph Cornell, Hannah Hoch and others in order to express the chaos and beauty of contemporary life. Mann’s work has won critical praise and been the subject of important gallery exhibitions. His work is in many private collections. He lives in New York and Bridgehampton with his life partner, the distinguished painter Hector Leonardi.