Bookish Intimacies is an exhibition of artist books and related works that explore intimacy and the desire to express it in today's global relationships. The artists in this exhibition capitalize on references to the book, pushing past the page's edge to create other works that examine related notions such as epic tales, text, language, illustration and narrative.
The works are diverse in their approach to the intimate: from manuscript pages transformed into a series of metaphorical portals through which the infinite might be accessed, to a painstakingly detailed rendering of an imaginary urban skyline populated by architectural styles from around the world. From an autobiography illustrated with details of antique furniture and quirky traditional Pakistani toys passed on from previous generations, to a letterpress edition chronicling an extended visit to Palestine illustrated with texts and white-on-white images that reflect the poignancy of everyday life there.
While two of the artists in Bookish Intimacies are local to the Bay Area, others dispatch their impressions from as far as Lahore, Detroit and Cairo. a.Muse director Lori Shantzis and collaborating guest curator Kathy Zarur asked a spectrum of artists to share works reflecting on the concept of the intimate. The resulting exhibit includes prints, collages, drawings and paintings, most presented in the form of artist books, suggesting in this time of frequent negation of the printed page, books remain uniquely poised as the timeless purveyor of history, beauty and personal intimacy.
Ala Ebtekar (Courtesy Paule Anglim Gallery) is an artist born in Berkeley whose diverse interests in graffiti and music, 20th century Persian coffee house painting, Persian mythology, science and philosophy come together in his paintings and drawings.
In a series of modified manuscript pages that comprise part of a larger project called "Portals & Gateways," Ebtekar writes that "by isolating arches, windows and views of the cosmos, I hope to suggest a common meditative vision with application to both ancient tradition (and spirituality) and to imaginings of the future."
Artist, curator and writer Kevin B. Chen (artwork courtesy Jack Fischer Gallery) uses the urban skyline and the buildings that fill it to consider shifts in society, whereby commerce seems to dominate the once powerful institutions of religion and spirituality. Some of his works in the show are small, delicate books which make the architecture of diverse cities and cultures more intimate and human-sized.
Born in Cairo, Anna Boghiguian splits her time between Egypt, India and Europe. She highlights the connections between these places and others, focusing on issues such as power and labor as they figure in everyday life.
Hailing from Miami, Toby Millman has been living in Hamtramack, an enclave in Detroit, for several years. She incorporates ephemera and snippets from everyday life into her printmaking work to tell stories that highlight the human experience.
Saamia Vine was born and lives in Lahore in Pakistan. With an interest in the concept of beauty, she looks to her family history and the objects fill her home, from carved heirloom Kashmiri furniture, traditional textiles and Indian miniature painting to the toys her children play with, to create often autobiographical painting and collages.
Living in Lahore, Pakistan, Mohsin Shafi creates collages that bring together elements from pop culture, surrealism and pictorialism to create fantastical tableaus that ask philosophical questions about the nature of identity.
Kathy Zarur is a San Francisco native who has lived throughout the US, Palestine and the United Arab Emirates. She holds a doctorate from the University of Michigan in art history. Her research interests include the confluence of museums and national identity, contemporary art in the Middle East and attendant rise of the art and culture industry in the region. She lives and works in San Francisco.