Contemporary Artists' Books from Colombia
Contemporary Artists’ Books from Colombia
Curated by Alejandro Martín Maldonado
A Library Pop-Up Exhibition in Conjunction with
Waterweavers: The River in Contemporary Colombian
Visual and Material Culture
Twenty-seven incredible artists' books by contemporary artists working in Bogotá and other parts of Colombia are on display in the Library's second-floor exhibition space (across from the reference desk). A letter from the curator, Alejandro Martín Maldonado, follows the exhibition checklist below.
If you are at the BGC, please do stop by and see the collection the next time you are on the second floor! If you would like to spend some time opening, reading, and handling the books, or if you are visiting from outside the BGC, please contact us to make an appointment to do so.
- Kevin Simón Mancera Vivas, La Felicidad (Jardín: 2012/2013)
- Maria Isabel Rueda & Humberto Junca, La Llorona (La Silueta: 2013)
- Tupac Cruz, Esfera Roja I: Rompemos Ramas (Jardín: 2013)
- Mónica Naranjo, La Distancia entre Extraños (Robot: 2012/2013)
- Mateo Rivano, Caré Libro (La Silueta: )
- Powerpaola, Por Dentro (La Silueta: 2012)
- Jim Pluk, Pecas (Robot: 2012)
- Joni b, Parque del poblado (Robot: 2011)
- Mateo Rivano, El 7 Plagas (La Silueta: 2013)
- Maria Isabel Rueda & Marcos Castro, Mi Destino está en tus manos (Jardin: 2012)
- Truchafrita, Cuadernos Gran Jefe 8: Chimpandolfo Silente (Robot: 2009)
- MRZ, Una nube de moscas (Robot: 2012)
- José Horacio Martinez, Libretas (La Silueta: 2009)
- Lucas Ospina, Ejercicios académicos (Laguna: 2009)
- Rafael Pombo & Sergio Trujillo, Alfabeto Imaginario (La Silueta: 2013)
- Powerpaola & Alejandro Martin, Costuras (Robot: 2013)
- Juan David Giraldo & Alma Sarmiento, Severo Revés (Distiempo: 2013)
- Juan Mejía, 30 días (Laguna: 2007)
- María Villa, Paraguas (Tragaluz: 2012)
- Stefhany Yepes Lozano, Once: Once (Jardin: 2013)
- Ricardo Muñoz Izquierdo, ABC Puerto Colombia (Centurión de la Noche / Ministerio de Cultura de Colombia: 2014)
- Typozon & Andrés Ospina, El silbón (La Silueta: 2012)
- Barbarita Cardozo, Nimble Fingers (La Silueta: 2009)
- Felipe González, Adriana Montoya, & Rafael Navarrro, Bogotázombie: se levantan los muertos el 9 de abril (Laguna: second edition, 2013)
- Inu Waters, Mohán: El Mito (La Silueta: 2013)
- Kevin Simón Mancera Vivas, Cosas de viaje (Jardín: third edition, 2013)
- Nicolás Paris Vélez, Doble faz (La Silueta: 2007)
The books are here. They came from Colombia by plane, traveling in my suitcases: I had to bring two to divide the weight. I have been carrying books all my life, like my father, the professor (even if many times we had to open the suitcases to show we were not carrying coca). In December, when I first came with Jose Roca, the curator of Waterweavers, to design the exhibition and conceive the catalogue, I brought some of my favorite Colombian recent publications and when I showed them to Heather Topcik in the library, she invited me to bring some more to mount this small exhibition designed to share the current proliferation of artist book publishing happening right now in Colombia.
Many people think that printed books are a past thing, but ironically I have noticed that the Internet has made people eager to share their work on paper. We are now so deep inside the web that we don't know if we love it or hate it, but we know that the screen is not enough. And besides, this world of digitization and interconnection has allowed us to discover many similar projects from other parts of the world and good examples to copy from far away in the past.
In 2004, I took a job editing a book magazine, Piedepágina, and I used the magazine as a vehicle for many interesting experiments (about dictionaries, art, comics and illustrations), and discovered fantastic authors like Tomás González, who came many years ago to the US and only returned to Colombia to publish beautiful novels like Horacios’s story. You can find some of his poems in the Waterweaver’s catalog. At that time, however, I could not find much in the way of local, experimental publishing outside of a few creative editorial projects here and there like the fantastic architecture books published by Mesa Editores (also architectural in their design). At Piedepágina, my greatest discovery was children’s book publishing, which seemed to combine creative experimentation with traditional publishing and was lead by some incredible women: Maria Osorio and Yolanda Reyes.
But starting 2007, when we had to close the magazine because it was a terrible business in terms of money, a new group of brave publishers began. In Medellín, there was Tragaluz with its anthologies of poetry alongside images by people like the acute draughtsman Jose Antonio Suarez, that were bound with utmost care. And in Bogotá, two projects led by artists: Laguna (by Felipe González) and La Silueta (Andrés Fresneda and Juan Pablo Fajardo) came to create books that seemed impossible to sell, but at the same time were the most interesting works of art in the scene: books like 30 días (by Juan Mejía) and Doble faz (by Nicolás Paris). Works of art that could only be books, and were simple and bright at the same time.
Gradually, this practice gained momentum, and Jardin produced treasures like Manceras’ book Felicidad (where he traveled the continent looking for towns with that name to find many of the paradoxes of the term Happiness). I also have to mention the everchanging project: Asterisco, by an artists’ collective in Bogotá. And how Manuel Kalmanovitz has been instrumental in highlighting recent writing and drawing experiments in his magazine, Matera, and has worked to create artist fairs where people can come together to share their creative projects. It is in these spaces that we have seen the increase in the publication of fanzines, posters and other folded-paper projects. Over time, Laguna and La Silueta have become legitimate publishers in their own right, consolidating a catalog and distribution partnership with small presses: Jardin, Luna, El Peregrino, Destiempo and Robot, in a project called La Diligencia, to further disseminate this unique work.
Robot, on display here, was one of the earliest fanzines and the most recognizable space for comics in the country. One sheet that was given freely every month by Truchafrita, who published there his drawings and musings, and those of his friends. Robot became then a stamp to print on some of the first comic books published in Colombia, and I have been happy to collaborate in the project.
When we speak of independent publishing in Colombia, we have to mention a couple of women artists who share the space of the gallery with books, booklets and fanzines. Powerpaola published her first graphic novel with La Silueta, Virus tropical, that was brave both in the raw character of her lines and the openness with which she shared her experiences. Maria Isabel Rueda has done many independent projects such as her Tropical Goth magazines, and has worked both with Jardin with her accordion book Mi destino está en tus manos and La Silueta with La llorona, part of a series of books on Colombian myths and legends.
It has been a great experience to have been able to see a new generation of artists, comics authors, and publishers commit to new, fragile, and experimental projects. And to be part of a whole group of people, that not only have risked their money on a very bad business, but have been able to work collectively to help each other and create new spaces for conversation and discussion.
There has been much talk about how art has rebelled against the walls of the museum, but today more than ever art seems to depend on those walls. However, one finds in these projects (and other urban endeavors) a spirit of wanting to make an accessible art form that is not expensive nor reclusive. To make art as an excuse to share: not only to share objects, but to share fears, to share humor and irony, to share strength to deal with the many different difficulties; maybe one of the toughest ones but also the most creative one: the reality of the everyday solitude.
I hope you can spend some time looking and reading some of these books. There was a lot of care and kindness creating them. There was someone drawing, full of doubts, many kilometers far away from here. But, also, she is expecting to hear from you. These books are invitations, a call for others to make their own work in exchange.
Paper is a lost cause. It does not want to be big, it does not want to reach the world. Just some few friends who want to receive a letter sent inside a bottle. If you are reading me, maybe you are one of those unknown friends. Maybe we share more than what we think.
Alejandro Martín Maldonado
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