Press

Central Booking, Gallery for Art Books and Prints, Comes to 21 Ludlow St.

21 ludlow

21 Ludlow St.

A new gallery is coming to the Lower East Side, but this one is a bit different than many of the other art-focused businesses that  have snapped up storefronts in the neighborhood the past few years.  Central Booking, which specializes in books and prints, has leased a space at 21 Ludlow St., and is in the midst of renovations.

The DUMBO-based gallery was created by Maddy Rosenberg in 2009.  According to the organization’s web site, Central Booking:

…is a new kind of art gallery with a welcoming atmosphere, New York’s own space focusing on the art of the book.  We exhibit the breadth of the various approaches to the form, since the artist’s book can be anything from a pamphlet done inexpensively on a copy machine to a letterpress codex bound book integrating words and images to a sculptural piece that is an object itself.

The 2700 square foot space is located on the west side of Ludlow just above Canal Street.   There are lots of photos on the gallery’s Facebook page documenting the renovation progress.

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‘The Robot Book’ by Thomas Jackson


If I had kids I’d probably read them really weird books. Not like, scary stuff, but things about architecture and art, less Curious George and the such. Another good example that’s not necessarily for kids but is still awesome is The Robot Book by Thomas Jackson. While Thomas describes the book as “a narrative series of photographs depicting a robot living a sort of post-apocolyptic nightmare in the woods of upstate New York” I think he’s done an amazing job of creating this huge battle in a beautiful, DIY way. The book itself comes in a limited edition of 11, each one being made of “sheet metal, old wood salvaged from a fallen-down chicken coop and a few electronic components.”

If you’re in the New York area you can stop by Central Booking in DUMBO to see his photos and books up close and personal. Also be sure to watch his video walkthrough of the book, it’s pretty dang nice looking.

-Bobby

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Passionate Geometry

A couple Thursdays ago, I saw the documentary Between the Folds at an art gallery in Dumbo. It’s about people who make origami, arguably the world’s mathiest craft, so I was expecting it to be interesting, but probably super dry – like a convention of Sol LeWitt fans. I was wrong.

What I loved most about the film was watching the artists talk about their work – like the sense of play that comes through loud and clear just from watching Paul Jackson’s hands move:

And the fun continues – MIT origami theorist Erik Demaine, his scientist-and-artist dad-and-collaborator Martin Demaine, geometric sculptor George Hart, and math-y visual artist Susan Happersett will be speaking at Central Booking in NYC next Thursday night.

If you’re a fan of what I’m up to, or of other math-tinted knitters like Norah Gaughan or Woolly Thoughts or FuzzyJay, or of fiber-tinted mathematicians like Daina Taimina or sarah-marie belcastro or Catherine Yackel, you’ll probably love it.

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On Reinventing the Art of the Book

By Kelcey Parker

In 1984, Prince and the Revolution released the album Purple Rain. One of its mega-hits—“I Would Die 4 U”—reads today like an early version of a text message. Prescient Prince also called on us to “party like it’s 1999,” evoking our millennial obsession with apocalypse.
Humans have always loved a dramatic ending, especially we literary types who proclaim the deaths of novels and rhyming poetry and the author—and now, it seems, print itself.

After all, it’s nearly impossible to analyze an unfinished manuscript, an incomplete story. We need to get to the end so that we can look back and assess the doomed trajectory. We need the carcass on the table so we can perform an autopsy and discern the actual cause of death.

So should we call for print’s priest? Is it time for last rites? Shall we carve a symbol on its tombstone and refer to it as The Art Form Formerly Known As Print?

Not so fast.

Print is undergoing a revolution. Such change can often look like The End, especially to those of us who view a narrative turning point, or climax, as the herald of the denouement. But a revolution is not an end; it’s a metamorphosis, a transformation, and often a new beginning. (Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” begins with the transformation.)

As a result, we have never been more self-consciously aware of the artistic potential and even the technology of the book than we are today.

With so many alternatives to print for the communication of ideas, print’s possibilities and limitations are more evident than ever. The book is a full sensory experience, and that is its great strength as an art form. It is a feast for the eyes as we read, a delight (ink, paper, dust) for the nose, a physical demand on the hands that hold it.

Think of Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves, which requires readers to turn the book sideways and upside down, which uses fonts based more on typographic history than on appearance, and which is itself a “house” made of “leaves.”

Or Toni Morrison’s Jazz and the narrator whose body, it would seem, is the book itself:

“If I were able I’d say it. Say make me, remake me. You are free to do it and I am free to let you because look, look. Look where your hands are. Now.”

These final sentences celebrate the tactile intimacy between book and reader; the reader holds the narrator’s body in her hands.

Such heightened appreciation of a book’s pleasures is not merely part of a farewell eulogy as the book goes gently into that good night. Even as the large publishing houses panic about the demise of the print publishing industry, the rest of the literary world is having a renaissance.

The DIY spirit of indie publishers is leading to a renewed appreciation of printing technologies and typography, an explosion of broadsides, handmade books and chapbooks, and books whose very structure and aesthetic have been reimagined. (See the box at the end of this piece for a few links to such innovations.)

Meanwhile, the digital revolution has brought technologies to the masses that were once available only to professional designers. Even Microsoft Word offers dozens of fonts and advanced design capabilities that allow self-publishers to create printed materials to share ideas and publicize events.

The same digital technology boom that seems to threaten print has created greener, cheaper, and more efficient printing capabilities. In his book Digital Printing Pocket Primer (Windsor, 2000), Frank Romano traces the history of digital printing, from the early printers of the 1970s to the 1978 debut of the Xerox 9790—“a $400,000 120-page-per-minute, sheet-fed, 300-DPI laser printer”—to the affordable home laser printer that “could do it all.”

“The world,” Romano concludes, “would never be the same again.”* As he notes, short runs of books used to be a major deterrent to self-publishers. The initial setup costs involved were hefty. But digital printing technologies now allow publishers to print runs of 50,000 or 3,000 copies—or far less—without these setup costs.That means printed books—even books written by you and me—are now available on demand. How can we resist? We can turn our own poems and stories and recipes and photo albums into actual books, printing one or one thousand copies at a variety of POD sites such as lulu.com, blurb.com, and createspace.com.

In my university courses, students edit, design, and self-publish their own books, something that would have been impossible just a decade ago. This is akin to hanging a young artist’s work on a museum wall or recording a budding musician’s composition on a DVD.

The aspiring writer not only experiences her work in a professional, published context, she pushes the boundaries of traditional publishing (and traditional narrative) by including images and strategic page layouts for no additional cost. What could be more inspiring or empowering to a young writer?

I’d like to inconclusively conclude that print may die eventually, and if it does, we’ll certainly look back to this moment as the beginning of the end. But for now, like any good pop star, it’s reinventing itself with lower costs, higher quality, better environmental ratings, enhanced possibilities, and greater accessibility.

We fans keep cheering.

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The Robot Book by Thomas Jackson


A fantastic photographic series by Thomas Jackson. This is a hand-bound book constructed from heavy-gauge sheet metal, salvaged wood and electronic components.

Firstly I found the film, as seen below, which gives us a nice flick through of the photography and also gives us a guide of what the book is made out of. The beeping red light and antenna really do give it that extra bit of jazz.

You can purchase this book, or art piece, at Central Booking. That is if you have $750 USD to spare.

www.thomasjacksonphotography.com

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Central Booking at Codex Book Fair, 2011

 

Fine Press Book Association

Maddy Rosenberg of Central Booking gallery of Brooklyn, New York specializes in artist books and prints. She is a bookmaker herself, as well as lithographer, painter and international curator.

Click on the link below recorded at the Codex Book Fair to hear Rosenberg on the opportunity for collectors to enter the art world via the book arts:

»Maddy Rosenberg on the market for book collecting

Rosenberg holds a black bear jawbone wrapped in strips of a map by book artist Steven Daiber. ($300)

“It’s taking the book onto a different plane,” she says “out of the codex, out of the binding and creating a narrative around it.”

“The book is a three-dimensional object, so it’s basically taking it to the next step,” says Rosenberg.

Click the link below to hear Rosenberg:

»Maddy Rosenberg on Steven Daiber’s “Jawbone”

Rosenberg holds Miriam Schaer’s altered book “Hands of Josephus.” ($2000)

Click on the link below to hear Rosenberg talk about the art form of the “altered book.”

»Maddy Rosenberg on an altered book by Miriam Schaer
~Suzanne Ahearne
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Central Booking NYC: Panel Discussion

By, Jonathan Carroll

“It was an amazing night over in the Dumbo section of Brooklyn, as a group of young, talented artists and scientist gave a presentation on their involvement in their respective field. From a personal standpoint, I could’ve listened to Dr. James Beecham, a particle physicist, talk for hours. This is a subject which has greatly influenced my work, as it forces you to realize that the surface we see is not only dull, but far from the complete picture. There is a certain level of passion that I just can’t ignore when it comes to how physicists will not stop until all the fundamental building blocks of matter have been discovered: a passion which was expressed wholeheartedly in the presentation by Dr. Beecham, and certainly by the rest of the panel, and audience members as well.

Being an artist, not a scientist, I’ve always wondered exactly how artists who are inspired by the field deal with their incompetency of the factual knowledge it’s based on. This was best illustrated in the presentation by Martha Lewis, who even goes as far as using the technical terminology associated with what inspired her to make the piece. Unabashed –and for good reason, as the work she creates is quite lovely — Ms. Lewis had no problem explaining that a large portion of the material which inspired her, she did not comprehend. Whereas I find myself capable of understanding the material, and I feel from the way Lewis spoke about the sources of her inspiration she understands more than she may give herself credit, conveying an understanding is not the point of either of our works. Lewis even said that she greatly enjoys working with science, but would never actually want to make representational models of the material. This point highly reflects my own sensibility, and clearly illustrates an attempt to have art remain in the realm of the imagination: a place which is becoming harder to find in a world saturated by technical devices centered on achieving realism.

So, a big thanks goes out to Torino & Margolis, Carter Hodgkin, Dr. James Beecham, Dr. Lee von Krauss, Martha Lewis, and gallery owner Maddy Rosenburg (and crew), for providing such a wonderful presentation on the world of Art and Science. Until next time….

-Jonathan”
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Square Knots: Art and Math

John Haber
in New York City
 

Measure for Measure and Alyson Shotz

When Malevich painted a black square, he revolutionized painting. But had he painted the first abstraction, or had he painted a square? He had painted geometry and nothing more, but was he actually doing geometry? When Terry Winters calls a series Knotted Graphs, is he illustrating topology or doing topology?

I owe the question to an artist that, reasonably enough, works in abstraction. Puzzling it out takes knowing what one means by doing mathematics. If that were not enough, it takes knowing what it means to call something abstraction or illustration. A show that claims to connect art and math may not, even as it involves both artists and mathematicians. Alyson Shotz may or may not, but her waveforms depend on both. As for Winters, it is a knotty problem.

 

Math as an abstraction

Of course, Kazimir Malevich was not the first artist to turn to geometry. It is hard to imagine Jan Vermeer in The Art of Painting without his maulstick—or the Renaissance without a compass and straightedge. It is hard, too, to imagine any number of paintings without preparatory drawings gridded for transfer. Studio training had long required the tools, ideas, shapes, and symmetries of math along with a steady hand. Leonardo filled his notebooks with them, and indeed artists have probably found the golden rectangle and the catenary more interesting than mathematicians. But were they doing mathematics?

Art and nature may go together, but art and science intersect in curious ways. Art and math may seem even more alike, give or take the artist’s skill, a free and creative hand, or the pleasure and pain of expressionism. Today, software practically builds all these right in along with the math. Yet that still leaves a huge divide. One can see it in majors and graduate programs in art as opposed to mathematics. Guess which discipline, for example, has welcomed more women?

Artists who borrow images from science or medicine are obviously not doing science or medicine—not even when they understand, respect, and do not distort the original purpose of the image. They are plainly not doing research. But they are also not doing science in the sense of a student doing homework by using the tools of science, such as math, to solve problems or by going into the lab. There are often parallels in art to what scientists do, such as close observation, creative representation, and generalization about observations. But even those do not necessarily require images from science, and the parallels take one only so far. When artists take science as subject matter, they often look to something older than the rigors of science anyway, in natural history.

However, the case of math is much less clear, since there the very distinction between sign and the thing itself is hard to pin down. Is Terry Winters doing math? Set aside knots for now. What they are and how to represent them are an added complexity—and an unnecessary one. I hardly understand topology myself, and I had more than four years of college math and physics. Take instead something more familiar, a square. One can always ask later when knots qualify the conclusions.

It helps to realize that behind the question lie two quite distinct puzzles, although they do overlap. One puzzle has nothing at all to do with art: when one commits a square to paper, is one doing math—or even drawing a square? The second puzzle is whether it matters when the shape is a work of art. I cannot resolve either puzzle, especially the first. It has surely been around as long as civilization. But it is crucial to be aware of the question—and why it is distinct.

Logically, a drawing cannot possibly be a square. On the one hand, it has features irrelevant to a square, such as a color and the width of the lines. On the other hand, it lacks the essential features of a square. The angles are never exactly 90 degrees, and the sides are never exactly equal in length. People have responded to this puzzle in many ways over time. Their responses are in fact the philosophy of mathematics.

 

From conceiving to doing math . . .

Some have spoken of a square as an idealization—in effect, a more perfect drawing than just happens to be possible. They have called a square a concept, existing in one’s head but sharable. They have described squares as ideals, existing but in some other realm. For Plato even the mental pictures, much less the drawings, are just shadows or representations of reality. Or they have seen mathematics as a formal system, built on definitions and axioms. In this solution to the puzzle, a square is a sign in a language or is the same thing as its definition.

These are all good answers, and all have serious drawbacks. The meaning of an idealization is hardly clear, especially since by definition it is not achievable. As for mental constructs, they make math sound rather arbitrary, just when one wants mathematical truths to be universal truths—or at least true by definition. Formal models run up against the limits of all systems. Long before Postmodernism, Alfred Whitehead and Bertrand Russell sought to construct math from first principles, using set theory. Their early twentieth-century project ran up to their dismay against Gödel’s paradox, which showed that they could never encompass all of mathematics without also encompassing contradictions.

Plato’s solution has limits to its appeal, too. The nature of his other realm frankly eludes me. So does how he expects human beings to have access to it—unless he allows representations and formal systems back in after all. Plato also worked a long time ago, before what tortured students know today as algebra. He and his contemporaries took for granted that mathematics was geometry, not something best specified by formulas with symbols. In his time, the puzzle was the relationship between a square and a real or mental picture. Today the puzzle is the relation between an algebraic representation and a geometric one.

In fact, if anything sets apart mathematicians from us common folk, it is the ability to see the relationship as a matter of course. A knot is something governed by a set of formal rules, called mappings or transformations. However, topologists have no trouble understanding what that has to do with the intuitive idea of a knot. They know quite well that they are describing something distinguished by how it gets tied up. But then, that makes them mathematicians. A mere mortal has to settle for picturing physical reality, which is why I majored in physics and not math.

Plato’s solution also runs up against a contrary intuition: of course the thing on paper is a square. I just drew one! This intuition is hardly rigorous, but it gets at the ordinary motivation for studying these things. It also gets at how real people do math—and why artists may claim to be doing math after all. Students prove things in school by drawing and labeling pictures. Later, in college, they may prove things by manipulating symbols, but it is a little discomforting then to think that they are manipulating only representations and not the thing itself.

Kurt Gödel was a Platonist, but most contemporary philosophers who have skewered formal systems are closer to pragmatists or “wholists.” They are less and less likely to recognize the distinction between truth by experience and truth by definition. It all just goes into the big pot and gets stirred. Perhaps the most influential recent philosopher of logic, W. V. O. Quine, started out impatient with everyone’s arguments but his own. One of his first projects was to show that the three-volume Principia could be brought off in two hundred pages. In time, he showed instead one more reason that it could not be brought off at all.

 

. . . And from doing math to making art

The first puzzle, then, comes down to whether the square in front of one’s face is a definition, a representation, or the thing itself—or whether there is even a distinction to be made here. That applies to a square as a set of words, a picture, or a set of algebraic formulas. You and I are not going to resolve this, but it does help move the story along. You can already see why math in art is going to be different from science in art. You can see why we are tempted to think of pictures as not just illustrations but, yes, actual mathematics. “No ideas but the thing itself,” as the poem goes, and what is art if not the thing itself?
That brings me naturally to the second, distinct problem: what changes when the pictures are art? On the one hand, it seems impossible that anything can have changed. A picture is just a picture, to Plato’s dismay, but it is still a picture. In fact, as Andy Warhol or Jasper Johns makes clear, a copy of a picture is a picture, too. On the other hand, it seems obvious that everything has changed.

A high-school student draws a square to help show, say, that the opposite sides are parallel. An artist, in contrast, draws a square for its own sake—or for the sake of art. Winters is not trying to show anything about knots, or if he is, he has failed to teach me. For all I know, he could have got the math wrong. He would still have made his point about painting or even about knots. He would still be in the tradition of Wassily Kandinsky, describing modern art as point, line, and plane.

In other words, he would still be opening up art to the beauty of drawing, space, networks, connections, transformations, nature, and ideas. Like an artist working with images from science, he is using symbols from other disciplines than art as metaphors to make a point about painting. Is he doing math? When it comes down to it, who cares? He is still putting math to good use and not just throwing around pretty pictures. And, somehow, that fact makes his pictures art, and it helps make him a model for the present, when many artists combine imagery and other media with abstraction.

That brings the story to a final question—and this question really does matter to art. I can now ask whether it makes a difference how a painter or conceptual artist works with a knot or a square. If the artist is using geometry to construct a painting, like so many since the early 1960s, it feels more like doing math than if the artist shows a square as an image floating in a field, like a character in a graphic novel. I could argue that Winters is doing the latter. It is why I admire him but do not count him among my favorite artists. I put him uncomfortably between the people before him who seemed to hate imagery, like Frank Stella or Brice Marden, and the artists after Winters who have taught me how to enjoy made geometries like his after all, like Julie Mehretu.

Unfortunately, this is not a hard-and-fast distinction either, a lesson of lots of postmodern art. Elizabeth Murray and Jennifer Bartlett have both managed to use geometry in both ways, as composition and as subject matter, in the very same work. Call them illustrators, philosophers, painters, conceptual artists, or just artists. It hardly matters. Art would be far less rich without them. To return to where I began, though, mathematics would not.

 

Standing waves

When Malevich painted a square, he set a high standard for both abstraction and for geometry in art. “Measure for Measure” once again connects art and mathematics—and surprisingly much of it is not abstract. It says something that the title quotes Shakespeare rather than, say, calculus. Is the show doing math or using math only as illustration? Sometimes both, and sometimes neither one. These artists have stories to tell, and not all their stories are about geometry.

Most are, however. Only Rosaire Appel includes equations—and those simply samples out of textbooks. They could illustrate a student’s fear of math, the apparent subject of her cartoons. Graphs turn up in drawings by Anne Gilman, and Cherry Pickles spins out curves from allegedly the fourth dimension high on the wall. Susan Kaprov assembles jigsaw puzzles. Most, however, let a simple forms take their own course.

They include professors of mathematics or its history, who often seem to playing around while waiting for class. Julian Voss-Andrae and George Hart both sculpt polyhedra, Hart’s with additional ripples along the edge. (Ah, those pesky higher dimensions.) Folds enter often, but less as the unfolding of art’s very presence, as with Dorothea Rockburne, than as decorative patterning. Chris Palmer’s folds open like flowers and Martha Lewis’s as something akin to mappings, while Daina Taimina crochets hers. For Thomas Parker Williams, the work unfolds as an artist’s book of aluminum or wood and stained glass.

The sense of self-replicating pattern comes closest here to actual math or the philosophy of math. Both Sarah Stengle and Erik and Martin Demaine generate the paradoxical outcome of simultaneously yes and no. Kristoffer Myskja lets a machine do the job, churning out holes punched in paper with their own collective geometry. Does it all feel more rigorous than a plain black square? Does it experience the collision of simple objects and visual splendor more than Tara Donovan—especially Tara Donovan in Mylar? I doubt it, and I may want the rigor of the 1970s back, but I shall just have to wait.

Alyson Shotz calls her show “Wavelength,” and she hardly needs the 1970s with patterns this dizzying. Her waves appear not just in multiple media and multiple shapes, but in multiple manifestations within a single work. The simplest is the most intricate, a wavelike weave of black yarn held together only by pins in the wall. Facing it, more than a thousand acrylic strips break into waveforms in three dimensions over twenty-five feet. They also provide a lesson in the wave mechanics by refracting, reflecting, and transmitting light, giving yet another meaning to the title Standing Wave. One can look at its changes again and again without quite believing that the color arises entirely from the interaction of matter and light.

Can one call the strips colorless, without misstating the relationship between mathematics and nature? (Technically, the color of a dichroic material depends on the direction in which light passes through it.) Is Shotz really doing math rather than taking physics as subject matter? It is more than a textbook illustration either way. Long after Minimalism, geometry in art is still standing. Malevich, who went to his deathbed with Black Square hanging over him, can rest in peace.
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Central Booking Launches Thomas Jackson’s New Work, “The Robot Book”


The Robot Book, 2011

“In the Artist’s own words:

‘When I began this project three years ago, I didn’t know I was making a book. The plan was to create a series of staged photographs addressing a set of themes that interested me, among them our culture’s obsession with hard work and our less-than-harmonious relationship with the natural world. Composed in narrative form, in the manner of a medieval tapestry or altarpiece, the pictures would tell the story of a solitary robot’s last days in a post-apocalyptic place. But when I completed the images in late 2010, the project felt unfinished. The story seemed to need one last narrative twist. The answer, I came to realize, was a book. A book that was itself an artifact from the world I’d created in the pictures. A combination of organic, manufactured and mechanical components, it would be the sort of thing the robot himself might have made. The result is a mixed media mash-up that’s part sculpture, part graphic novel, part photo book and part gadget—an inscrutable relic long lost in an apocryphal future.’”
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Thomas Jackson’s “The Robot Book” on Everything is Fascinating

“This afternoon I spent a few happy minutes at Central Booking in DUMBO leafing through my friend Thomas Jackson’s The Robot Book. Mysterious, witty, and indescribable. You really need to hold it in your own hands for the complete experience.
Do yourself a favor and visit today during First Thursday gallery hours, which run until 8:30 pm. Central Booking is at 111 Front Street, Gallery 210, Brooklyn, NY 11201″
-John McCrory
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Shifting Art ist Book Distribution Models

Shifting Artist Book Distribution Models:
bookartbookshop; Boekie Woekie; Printed Matter; Sticky Institute; Golden Age;
Family; Vamp and Tramp Booksellers, LLC; Central Booking; Ooga Booga;
Woodland Pattern Book Center; KALEID editions
 Brandon Graham
JAB28 Fall 2010, order form

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=Editor’s Pick

OPEN: BROOKLYN, DUMBO

pick Anne Gilman, Cherry Pickles, Chris Palmer, Daina Taimina, Erik Demaine, George Hart, Helen Friel, Julian Voss-Andreae, Julie Shaw Lutts, Kristoffer Myskja, Martha Lewis, Martin Demaine, Pablo Heguerra, Philip Sugden, Rosaire Appel, Sarah Stengle, Susan Happersett, Susan Kaprov, Thomas Parker Williams, Will Ashford “Measure for Measure” curated by Maddy Rosenberg at Central Booking
Brooklyn, Dumbo: 111 Front street, suite 210
Thu-Sun, noon-6pm
Ends April 3rd, 2011

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3-D Photo Books On Display at DUMBO Gallery

Central Booking’ Features Heidi Neilson By Harold Egeln
Brooklyn Daily EagleDUMBO — What do fake snow and orbiting space trash have in common? They have both been portrayed by artist Heidi Neilson, who has a master’s degree in fine arts from Pratt Institute, in two new limited-print editions of 3-D illustrated books she created recently.The stories in her new Fake Snow Collection and Orbital Debris Simulator books were told and viewed in anaglyph 3-D glasses at a presentation at the Central Booking gallery at 111 Front St.Even though real snow made for a winter wonderland in the city over the last two months, fake snow in 24 different forms appears in 40 images in the Fake Snow Collection, published by Visual Studies Workshop Press in an edition of 100.

Page spreads include 17 dioramas such as “The Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax,” “The Crystallography of Snow” and “Niveculture.” Each illustration shows the variations in the fake snow around a cabin in the woods, accompanied by a text on the opposite page.

“Orbital Debris Simulator describes the phenomena of ‘space junk’ in the Earth’s orbit, showing points of interest between the moon and Earth, such as geosynchronous orbit [which is 22,000 miles out], medium Earth orbit and the International Space Station,” said Neilson in a description of the various orbital altitudes of hundreds of satellites. Many of them are now defunct but continue to orbit the Earth.

“Images of space toys, spaceships and action figures from various science fiction ‘universes’ as well as replicas of actual spacecraft, are used as stand-ins for actual orbital debris itself,” she noted, referring to a page showing the surface of the moon. The book was published by the Women’s Studio Workshop in 70 editions, each with hand-bound aluminum covers.

Part of the “low Earth orbit spread” in the book includes action figures such as the robot Gort model from the 1951 movie classic sci-fi movie The Day the Earth Stood Still. Model spaceships include the Star Trek Klingon battle cruiser, the Russian Soyuz cosmonaut craft and NASA’s space shuttle. There is a spread on the International Space Station, also.

The book shows the extent of the space debris swarming around the Earth, mostly just a few hundred miles above the planet, a graphic illustration of how populated “near space” has become since the first Sputnik satellite was orbited by the Russians in October 1957. It also shows the potential threats to the current Space Station from space debris, which could hit it at super-speeds.

Neilson, a native of Oregon who now lives and works in Long Island City, is a conceptional artist engaged in the book arts, drawing, printmaking and some public projects, to the delight of Central Booking and its Executive Director Maddy Rosenberg, who has been showcasing trailblazing book artworks at her venue. Aside from this project, Neilson also recently co-founded an artist-operated weather station placed atop a studio building in her Queens neighborhood, according to her web site.

She has created six other art books, including another one devoted to the space topic, the 2008 limited-edition Home Planetarium Survey. This book, she said, “displays seven toy planetariums and photograms of the constellation Orion projected by the planetariums.”

Another of her works is “On Safari,” 1976, a photo tome looking at the past and how people perceive the past in various ways from a present perspective.

Her current two books can be viewed at Central Booking (www.centrcg7). Her book artworks and associated information are available at her web site www.heidineilson.com.

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ART BOARS: AN ART AND CULTURE SOURCE

During first Thursday in Dumbo, I walked into this new gallery that specializes in artist books. I would recommend it if you’re in the area or in the market for both original and editioned art books. Link.

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Neighborhood beat: DUMBO

Neighborhood BRIC Arts I Media I Bklyn

Host: Kecia Cole
Neighborhood Beat is a series featuring Brooklyn’s diverse neighborhoods. The programs are produced and directed by neighborhood reps.

Brooklyn’s neighborhoods are constantly reinventing themselves. This waterfront area was once known as Fulton Landing because it was the site of the ferry to Manhattan in the years b

efore the Brooklyn Bridge was built. In the late 1970s it became DUMBO (for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) and a haven for artists. Brooklyn Independent Television’s Kecia Cole hosts this new regular Neighborhood Beat segment, taking us to the galleries, performance spaces, cafes and shops that make”>link DUMBO a magnet for people from all over the world.

Click here to view a video featuring CENTRAL BOOKING

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Looking Within

New. York. Art. Crit.
July 3, 2010

By John Haber

If eyes open windows onto the soul, no wonder art lingers over appearances. Biology and medicine, though, have gone one better. Want appearances and yet something deeper? We can cut you open and image the interior. And we do. “Anatomical/Microbial/Microcosms,” through July 11, brings together a dozen artists who, at least on the surface, look within. Paul Tecklenberg's Dark Field Cluster I (Central Booking, 2003)

Central Booking, started as a haven for works on paper and artist books, has in its short life had group shows on the intersection of art and science. “Natural Histories” looked back to a time when science, like art, trusted observation and intuition as much as grand theories. If you grew up with the Museum of Natural History as a succession of darkly lit rooms and glass cases, with no multimedia in sight, you will know what I mean. Biology, more than any other science, is still necessarily tactile and physical, even as new techniques are looking crisper and deeper. I myself have taken home x-rays home as ghastly souvenirs. So what if they are not imaging the soul?

Barbara Rosenthal, for one, displays her brain scans, in neatly cropped ovals and with the machine-generated data cut off as it fall. She had concerns for her psychic well-being, but doctors looked inside her head and found nothing. (Let me rephrase that: they found nothing untoward.) Her name lands on each sheet, in red block letters beneath the ghosts of a mind. In a show with few signed works, the most prominent artist’s signature is machine made.

Clearly it takes imagination to pin an artist down. Travis Childers transfers images of a human eye to a dense grid with peeled-off tape. If these eyes are not windows, they are also not quite I’s. Eva Lee creates a color Digital Terrain of the mind, in sharp-edged peaks and valleys. Paul Tecklenberg’s presumed micrographs turn out to represent not single cells but household objects, like corks and rubber bands. They are translucent and luminous all the same.

The theme could lead almost anywhere, given centuries of natural and human imagery. Even now, Terry Winters has had untold progeny in biomorphic abstraction, while Marina Abramovic in performance lay with a skeleton pressed to her naked chest. The Dumbo gallery prefers traditional media to shocks anyway, as with Nene Humphry, Elena Costelian, Stephanie Brody-Lederman, Thorsten Dennerline, and Linda Plotkin. While biology has advanced to evolutionary theory along with high technology. only Barbara Confino dives into The Genetic Wars. Her warnings have the visual style of a Cold War science-fiction menace, and part of me wishes they were true. Brian Alves comes closest to actual research, with photographic traces of medical reports.

Claire Watkins’s wires climb a gallery corner and descend, blossoming into a plant-like matrix of crystalline capillaries or nerves. Tiny brushes pluck the strings, leaving sonic traces in the air and visual traces on the wall. Mary Hambleton combines the directness of medical imagery with the harsh lyricism of early photography or film. She poses naked, crossed by white bars or machine imperfection. One work has successive images of herself dancing, with a pronounced belly and drapery like Louise Fuller at the dawn of Art Nouveau. The artist, who died in 2009, acknowledged the brevity of life but never frailty.

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Curator leaves Long Island City for LA

Queens Chronicle
April 29, 2010

By Nicole Levy

Deitch Studios in Long Island City will close after May 2 following curator Jeffrey Deitch’s controversial appointment as director of Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art in January.

Deitch is well known in the New York art scene for his interest in contemporary art and his 30-year career curating innovative exhibitions at venues around the world. As an advisor to leading institutional and private collectors, he has supervised the acquisition of major international and modern art collections. As an art critic and author of catalogue texts, he pioneered the now popular “visual essay,” an integration of text and images.

It was over a decade ago, in 1996, that Deitch founded his eponymous public gallery with three New York locations, including the LIC studios located at 4-40 44th Drive. Deitch Projects has since housed over 250 exhibitions, performances, and installations by contemporary artists including Yoko Ono, Keith Haring, Barry McGee, Todd James and Stephen Powers.

Though he has a reputation for shrewd business dealings in the commerical art world, it would seem that at Deitch Projects, the Harvard Business School graduate and former Citibank employee has prioritized the artists’ work over its value.

MoMA director Glenn Lowry praised Deitch for having “one of the most exciting and adventuresome galleries in New York.” Lowry is confident Deitch “will undoubtedly bring the same energy and excitement to his work at MOCA.”

Deitch has pledged “to position MOCA as the most innovative and influential contemporary art museum in the world.

“I am excited by the opportunity to play a role in making MOCA and Los Angeles the leading contemporary art destination,” he said. It has been suggested that, in succeeding Charles Young, Deitch will secure the museum the international trustees it currently lacks.

However, some in the art world fear that, with his background in corporate art advisory, he will obsess over bottom lines rather than curating a cultural legacy in his capacity as MOCA’s new director.

Maddy Rosenberg, artist and director of Central Booking gallery in Dumbo, Brooklyn, believes Deitch will lead MOCA in the wrong direction. “When you’re drawing on someone who is more interested in the commercial value [of art], that’s not good for culture. You want to have lasting artwork, things for future generations to look at,” Rosenberg said.

Whatever his agenda may be, in closing his commercial galleries, Deitch will likely avoid any financial conflict of interest. At any rate, Rosenberg is unconcerned about Long Island City’s cultural future: “There was an art world there before he came to Long Island City, and it will continue,” she said, once he’s gone.

On May 2nd, Deitch Studios will close. Until then, Josh Smith’s fresco installation “On the Water,” painted in the course of three and half days directly on the wall and therefore unsaleable, will be on view.

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Art and Astronomy Come Together at DUMBO Gallery

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
April 12, 2010

By Harold Egeln

Central Booking’s `Celestial Art’ Frames Discussion

DUMBO – “How do you bring astronomy and art together?” asked Dr. Greg Matloff, an astronomy and physics professor at New York College of Technology in Downtown Brooklyn. As he asked that question, a mini-cosmos of space art surrounded him.

These were paintings combining stunning space photographs intermingled with wondrous images of the Earth, sailing ships, holograms and equations painted by artist C. Bangs, his wife and book collaborator, along with those by 14 other artists, who were answering his question.

The artwork is in the current “Astronomy: The Celestial” exhibit at the Central Booking gallery in DUMBO through May 2. “Artists explore the universe from a very earthly base as well as a more cosmic one,” said Maddy Rosenberg, exhibit curator and executive director of the gallery at 111 Front St. www.centrcg7.

Matloff, author of several books, and Bangs were among those discussing connections between art and astronomy at an illustrated panel discussion Thursday evening on “Reconstructing the Cosmos.”

Joining them were City Tech cosmology instructor Dr. Ari Maller and geologist Dr. Denton Ebel, a meteorite and planetary formation specialist at the American Museum of Natural History’s Department of Earth and Planetary Science and colleague of Hayden Planetarium Director Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson.

The Bangs-Matloff collaboration, dating back over 20 years, was evident in their latest book collaboration, co-authored with NASA scientist Les Johnson, deputy director for the Advanced Concepts Office in Alabama.

“Paradise Regained: The Regreening of Earth” (Springer Books) is about another connection: urging space advocates and environmentalists to work together in seeking space resources for new energy solutions, such as solar power satellites and mining asteroids and the Moon.

Space art was pioneered in the 1940s and 1950s by famed artist Chesley Bonestell, whose artwork fascinated readers of magazines such as Colliers, which featured artists in the coming age of space exploration and travel. Fanciful art appeared on science fiction magazine and book covers.

“I was influenced by science at a young age by my father, an engineer and scientist, and [also by] the use of art for science and the philosophy of art,” said Bangs, who met Matloff in the 1980s, which did their first collaboration.

“In the realm of images, it began to look like art,” said Ebel of the spectacular images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, in orbit for 20 years now, as he showed pictures of beautiful nebula and stellar nurseries several trillions of miles long.

He then showed slides of the surface and inner structure of meteorites and asteroid particles, revealing colorful patterns and intricate shadings. “Visually its about science meeting artists visualizations as also seen in planetary formation discs around new stars,” Ebel said.

“I call it the art of the cosmos,” said Muller, a colleague of Matloff at City Tech. That cosmic art, added Matloff, was seen with the astounding 3-D effects of the mega-hit Avatar movie that dazzled the public worldwide with its imagined depiction of the alien world Pandora, making many yearn for such a planet.

`The Hunt for Pandora’

With a longtime interest in as-yet-to-be undiscovered extraterrestrial civilizations, their survival and growth over the aeons, and a human destiny in space travel, Matloff mentioned a scientist in Illinois who has launched “the Hunt for Pandora.”

That involves the search for Earth-like rocky planets around the double star system of Alpha Centauri A and B, the closest solar system to ours at a distance of four-and-one-third lights years which could only support rocky Earth-sized worlds. The Kepler and Darwin space telescope missions are among the searchers to be eventually joined by the Terrestrial Planet Finder.

“A visionary view of the cosmos was depicted by novelist Olaf Stapledon in his famous science fiction book Star Maker in 1937, taking the main character on journey through alien planets and multiple universes, learning that the cosmos is an artistic creation,” Matloof said.

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Feature: Goodbye, Mr. Deitch

Artillery
vol 4 issue 4  (Mar/Apr 2010)

By John Haber

IS a commercial dealer the right choice for a museum, I asked dealers from around the city. And how will Jeffrey Deitch’s departure for LA MOCA affect New York?……

MADDY ROSENBERG IS A DIRECTOR OF CENTRAL BOOKING IN DUMBO, FEATURING ARTIST BOOKS ALONGSIDE OTHER MEDIA:

“Can we just go back to PhDs rather than MBAs as museum directors? Not that one needs academic credentials, but someone who has actually spent a life in the scholarly pursuit of art might have a legacy to leave. Museums have to be interested in art that doesn’t count on the bottom line. They are investing in the cultural future, not building up artists for investment killings. People are hungry for it. They are seeking freshness, rather than institutionalized, empty art. Artists are still making art. Wouldn’t it be interesting if we focused on their vision? I do think the New York art world will survive without him. There are those who make their mark, but dealers come and go, and no one’s indispensable. The art world is just too large these days.”Janet Goldner’s “WhY (Ntlomaw)” sculpture, on display at Central Booking (Brooklyn) ……

For the whole article please visit Artillery

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Art’s Evil Empire- Jeffrey Deitch and LA MOCA

New.York.Art.Crit.
January 10, 2010

By John Haber

Bringing Jeffrey Deitch to LA’s Museum of Contemporary Art is like asking Bill Gates to run Google. With street-level cameras and Google books, the company that made a fortune off the promise to do no evil is scaring people. So why not turn it over to the evil empire? As for MOCA, the museum that almost bankrupted itself is finding its way—at the cost of funding and oversight from a wealthy patron and collector, Eli Broad. So why not hire New York’s flashiest dealer, rather than a curator or academic?

And that is just what the museum has done, and it has polarized people. In fact, it polarized me, and I found myself on both sides. As it happened, the very week that I weighed in, a magazine asked me what some of New York’s other dealers think of the idea. This article interviews nine from around the city……

Beyond the Brooklyn Bridge

Maddy Rosenberg is an artist and director of Central Booking in Dumbo, featuring artist books alongside other media.

Can we just go back to PhDs rather than MBAs as museum directors? Not that one needs academic credentials, but someone who has actually spent a life in the scholarly pursuit of art might have a legacy to leave. I know it may be quaint to think a work of art might have some value besides how much it can garner in the commercial market, but museums have to be interested in art that doesn’t count on the bottom line. They are investing in the cultural future, not building up artists for investment killings.

The Alfred Barrs seem to be long gone, and directors these days are just about fund-raising anyway. The best a director can do is to be prescient enough to be surrounded by curators with a depth of knowledge and unique perspectives. I come by my own gallery as an organic growth from my years as an independent curator, not as a collector. I work with artists because of my belief in the quality of their work, desiring a widening of their audience, and not because I deem them economically viable.

If I had his chance, I would do what I do in my own curatorial program—show substantive work from artists who, for the most part, have careers but have not been given their due and young artists who are truly pushing the edge.

People are hungry for it. I see it over and over again in the eyes of even the most jaded New Yorker who walks into my gallery. They are desperate for challenging art that is also visually stimulating, work with concept and thorough follow through—and in quantity, rather than merely a rare find. They are seeking freshness, rather than institutionalized, empty art. Artists are still making art. Wouldn’t it be interesting if we focused on their vision?

I do think the New York art world will survive without him. There are those who make their mark, but dealers come and go, and no one’s indispensable. The art world is just too large these days. Besides, it is a rare contemporary dealer who goes for lasting quality rather than the latest trend. Few are confident enough to set trends rather than follow them, supporting artists who pursue their passion with an intensity and obsession…….

For the whole article please visit New.York.Art.Crit.

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For Singer Collins, ‘Over The Rainbow’ Is Brooklyn

Brooklyn Daily Eagle
March 8, 2010

By Harold Egeln

1_judy-collins_marty-markowitz_maddy-rosenberg_march_4_2010

Signs Books at DUMBO Store

DUMBO – Over the Rainbow and down under the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges was where famed singer Judy Collins signed her new illustrated children’s book and CD at a party last week.

“Judy sang at one of my seaside park concerts on August 5, 1993,” recalled Borough President Marty Markowitz upon greeting Collins at the Central Booking art gallery and shop in DUMBO on Thursday evening. Brooklyn’s leader has held those concerts dear since he was a state senator.

As Markowitz pinned a Brooklyn pin on Collins’ jacket, the singer and city resident told people that she was thrilled to be in Brooklyn. In May 2009 Pratt Institute honored Collins with an honorary doctor’s degree in fine arts.

The evening’s excitement was centered on Collins and the beautiful Over the Rainbow book she collaborated on, stunningly illustrated by French-born painter Eric Puybaret with his graceful illustrations, filled with touching wit and joyful whimsy.

The hardcover book holds, on its inside back cover, Collins’ wondrous CD of The Wizard of Oz’ most famous song “Over the Rainbow” by famed composer Harold Arlen and lyricist E. Yip Harberg – a song that has enchanted generations.

Collins includes the original and rarely heard opening lyrics of the famed song, and she sang it after being introduced by Central Booking Executive Director Maddy Rosenberg, who is also the current art exhibit curator.

The CD also includes two wonderful songs by Collins from 1992, “I See the Moon” and “White Coral Bells,” both accompanied by a children’s chorus, that are distinctive pleasures to enjoy over and over again.

Children anywhere, in families and groups, can sing along to these pleasant enchanted tunes.

It was “send in the crowds” at the second-floor gallery and art book specialty shop at 111 Front St., which it shares with several other excellent art galleries in an attractive space. Many people who were friends and fans alike formed a line at a table as Collins signed the books, chatted about their favorite songs and concert moments, or shared memories recent or long ago.

Collins, who was a child piano prodigy in Seattle, has been performing for more than 50 years. She released her first album in 1961, inspired by the folk song revival sweeping the country. Expanding her repertoire, she blossomed into fame with her Wildflowers album in 1967.

Her version of “Both Sides Now” is in the Grammy Hall of Fame; and her memorable rendition of “Send in the Clowns’ from Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music, now enjoying a Broadway revival, won her a Grammy Award in 1975.

She has written six previous books since 1987 and has released several albums over the last five decades, now adding the joyful and hopeful Over the Rainbowpublished by the Imagine! – A Peter Yarrow Book-New York company (www.imaginebks.com).

The book launch party and reception inaugurated the new exhibit at Central Booking, “Astronomy: The Celestial,” showcasing 15 artists including book illustrator Puybaret, on exhibit through May 2.

There will be an artists’ reception on Thursday, March 25 from 6 to 8 p.m., featuring a panel discussion on “Deconstructing the Cosmos” with C. Bangs, Denton Ebel, Ari Maller and Greg Matloff.

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What Were Books, Daddy? Two Trees Exhibit Space Pays Homage

The Commercial Observer
March 9, 2010

By Emily Geminder

Before they were flashes of pixels jettisoning across screens, books meant pages and crackling spines and penned notes in the margins. Although bookstores may be closing, Dumbo’s recently opened art gallery Central Booking is devoted to those strange relics of pre-Kindle civilization.

It’s perhaps fitting that physical books are finding homes in spaces typically reserved for aesthetic appraisal, or maybe an onslaught of digital reading has sparked interest in books as physical things. Whatever the reason, Central Booking is like an acid-fueled bookstore turned inside out. Its rotating book art exhibitions range from re-envisioned Natural History texts to large book sculptures. Books hang from the ceilings and racks of zines line the walls.

Originally a pop-up gallery, Central Booking signed a two-year lease at Two Trees Management‘s 111 Front Street. The 1,250-square-foot gallery opened last week as part of Dumbo’s First Thursday celebration.

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Central Booking: “ASTRONOMY: THE CELESTIAL”

Brooklyn The Borough
March 2, 2010

By Kat Irannejad

Central Booking opens with the Big Bang in its new space as Astronomy: The Celestial inaugurates Gallery II. In this exhibition, artists explore the universe from a very earthly base as well as a more cosmic one. Curated by Maddy Rosenberg, participating artists include: C Bangs, Doug Beube, Mary Hambleton, Karen Hanmer, Barbara Houghton, Eva Lee, Donna Levinstone, Despo Magoni, Pamela Moore, John Noestheden, Carol Prusa, Eric Puybaret, Ilse Schreiber-Noll, Susan Schwalb, and Ted Victoria.

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Sherri Rosen Publicity

Feb 25th, 2010

Artists C Bangs, Judy Collins

Astronomy: The Celestial

Central Booking Art Space

Exhibition Date: March 4 – May 2, 2010

Artist’s reception: March 25, 6-8pm

DUMBO First Thursday: March 4, 5:30 – 7:30pm

Special Appearance & Book Signing by
Legendary Singer/Songwriter Judy Collins Celebrating Book Launch of
Over the Rainbow a Collaboration with Painter Eric Puybaret

Brooklyn, (DUMBO), NY, – Central Booking opens its latest exhibition with the Big Bang in Astronomy: The Celestial, a group show featuring artists whose work explore the universe from a very earthly base as well as a more cosmic one. The exhibition premieres with a special appearance by folk icon Judy Collins who will be signing copies of her new book project, Over the Rainbow, a creative collaboration with renowned painter Eric Puybaret. Judy Collins will be at the gallery Thursday, March 4 from 5:30 – 7:30pm. She might even sing…

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The Villager

November 18 – 24, 2009

Goldner’s ideas conceived in Mali, born on Warren Street

Tribeca artist’s massive steel sculptures resonate through two worlds


Janet Goldner’s “WhY (Ntlomaw)” sculpture, on display at Central Booking (Brooklyn)

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City Arts

Book ‘Em

cityArts
October 7, 2009

By Matt Connolly

When Maddy Rosenberg tells people she is, among other things, a book artist, she’ll often get such quizzical responses such as, “So…you’re an illustrator?” Rosenberg hopes to dispel this confusion with Central Booking, a Dumbo-based gallery focusing upon the multi-faceted art form.

A curator and artist who works across mediums, Rosenberg finds herself drawn to the differing ways that book art—which ranges from sculpture to printmaking to pamphlets made on a copy machine—manifests itself. “[Book art] is made by artists who approach some aspect of what a book is,” Rosenberg explained. “It may be text or structure or sequencing. It may be any one of those viewpoints that make it a piece of book art.”

As the gallery’s executive director and curator, Rosenberg works to filter the art form’s playful, multidisciplinary spirit into how she runs Central Booking. Two galleries make up the space, with the first devoted to all forms of book art and prints. Many of the pieces can be handled by visitors, and the price of individual works ranges from $2 to $100,000.

Doug Beube’<p><p>s work on display at Central Booking.The second gallery houses various exhibitions. Keeping with Central Booking’s theme of disciplinary cross-pollination, the inaugural show, entitled “Natural Histories,”  focuses on the overlap between art and science. A future exhibition will examine the relationship between art and social anthropology.

Rosenberg also hopes to shake up established conventions of how to lay out a gallery space, paying tribute to the work of individual artists while ultimately seeking to cultivate a larger atmosphere beyond any one piece. “It’s not a traditional installation where there’s one work or sculpture in the center,” she said of Natural Histories. “With this, I could create a whole natural environment: work hanging from the ceiling, work coming out of the walls and into the space.”

It took roughly two years to see Central Booking come to fruition, and Rosenberg does not regret the decision to forge ahead with the gallery’s opening despite the dicey economic climate. With plans to curate special web-based projects and to publish a book-art ‘zine by year’s end, she sees the medium’s future as full of possibilities. “From ‘zines to sculptural pieces to video art: It’s a very open arena,” Rosenberg said.

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THE ART NEWSPAPER

Gallery dedicated to book art opens in Brooklyn
Commercial venture shows growing popularity of the medium

By Andrew Goldstein | Web only
Published online 5 Oct 09
The Art Newspaper

Central Booking's opening party

Central Booking’s opening party

NEW YORK. In tune with a growing interest in print and book art, a new pop-up gallery has opened in Brooklyn’s DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) neighbourhood dedicated to the art form. Called Central Booking, the space is the brainchild of Maddy Rosenberg, a book artist and independent curator who has worked in the field for more than two decades, and hopes to further expose the versatility of the medium to the art world at large.

“My definition of the book is very expansive and inclusive,” says Rosenberg. “When an artist says they’re making a book, that’s my parameter.” As a result, Central Booking bears little resemblance to a traditional book store. The first of the gallery’s two rooms is reserved for curated shows of work by artists who make prints but also explore other mediums; the current show, “Natural Histories”, contains pieces ranging from a sawbox by Steven Daiber that is filled with pine cones wrapped in wood prints of a natural history text ($5,000), a non-print-related installation of scavenged metal and natural debris by Judy Hoffman ($25,000), and a limited-edition copy of “A Book of Works”, an unfinished 1993 book of poems and photographs by Ana Mendieta (loaned by the artist’s foundation, it is the only piece in the gallery not for sale).

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in New York City

10.4.09 —

A NATURAL HISTORY OF BROOKLYN

by Haberarts haberarts.com

Topics: artist books, Central Booking, Dumbo galleries, Joseph Stashkevetch, Mary Frank, Natural Histories, science and art, Von Lintel

At least since Leonardo began his notebooks, artists have claimed fidelity to an impersonal nature. And at least since William Blake, artists have claimed to free humanity from the suffocating logic of science. “Art,” he wrote, “is the tree of life. Science is the tree of death.”

And all the while, artist materials developed as in a laboratory.
Romantics even combined the roles—of ever-patient explorers and the creative imagination. Think of J. M. W. Turner, strapped to a mast to observe a storm. As it happens, scientists were doing much the same thing, give or take the melodrama. People still prize sketches by biologists and astronomers then, for both their beauty and their place in newly emerging theories. Science itself was emerging as a discipline, against a background of eighteenth-century natural history. (I tried to pin down parallels and differences between art and science after taking in Jacob van Ruisdael landscapes.) Mary Frank's Monkey (Central Booking, n.d.)

For its opening show, through November 8, Central Booking looks back to that time and to the present. “Natural Histories” includes delicate drawings and print. It includes Mary Frank’s monkey, in deep blue against a deep red monoprint, bent like the fossil in mystic contemplation. It includes a closed book by Ana Mendieta, who had quite a habit of identifying herself with nature. Mostly, though, it has an eye to less-familiar artists and to Brooklyn’s own natural histories. It even has Long Island City weather reports, from SP Weather Station.

Both realism and truth took a beating in the last century or so. Science showed up again mostly as technology became new media. For the Dumbo gallery, an older model of science comes naturally. The gallery will specialize in, and a second room has dozens. Just when science textbooks are adding more and more fine illustrations, these artists can still cherish books as something to hold in one’s hand. No wonder they want to reclaim art and science for natural history.

Many works aspire to the scale and intimacy of a book, like insects by Helga Eilts and Jule Rump or Humanist Prayer Flags by Donna Maria de Creeft. Others aspire to its uniqueness, like monoprints of single species by Robin Holder, or fragility, like painting on chiffon by Desirée Alvarez. Some directly evoke dated modes of observation—like Case Studies in Taxidermy Restoration by Heidi Nelson, hand-painted stereographs by Julie A. McConnell, photographs on glass by Amina Bech, the composting of an Earth Volume by Michelle Wilson, and a textbook of engravings wrapped around pine cones by Steven Daiber. Some span a corner wall or migrate overhead, like butterflies by Sabra Booth and night creatures on shaped plywood by April Vollmer. When paintings appear in full color, by Holly Sears and Gerhard Mantz, they actually look the most like science fiction rather than science, with sharp reds out of late Romanticism. Think of Thomas Moran rather than Thomas Cole.

Sometimes, though, the work does spill into the present, like those creatures overhead. And then things get messy, like the pile of Gowanatopia on the floor by Judy Hoffman. Sara Garden Armstrong's Fragment 37 (Central Booking, 2008)Apparent shards or growths in a petri dish, from Travis Childers, turn out to be Silly Putty—with faces peeled from the papers, of course. On video, Chris Jordan compresses six days of the Chinatown skyline into minutes, and how time flies. For Sara Garden Armstrong, the changes in nature remain slow and elusive. Her fluid grays represent the water’s depth, and wash over into abstraction.

Central Booking surely fills a need, when the Center for Book Arts must focus on its active workshop and galleries like Bravin Lee must mix books with other media. It may even have to pare back its enthusiasm, after an opening with one hundred and twenty contributors. It also gets to share with others a reminder of natural histories.