Book arts and paper arts in general are among my absolute favorite things, partially because I wouldn’t even know how to begin creating some of the amazing work I’ve seen. Papercraft 2: Design and Art with Paper highlights just what an artist or craftsperson can do with this amazingly versatile material.
The book is divided into five sections — Reality, Reimagined; Setting the Scene; Style and Substance; Text and Texture; Sculpted Space — each with its own particular form of papercraft. There is a one page introduction to each section, but apart from brief captions with the artists’ names and some information about the pieces, photographs of the artwork take center stage. The large images speak for themselves without a lot of chin-stroking art-speak. When I look at art, either in person or in a book, I don’t really want to be told what to think about it. I don’t need an art school essay. Just give me some basic information on intent and materials, and then let me come to my own conclusions. Thankfully, Papercraft does not go on and on, text-wise.
Reality, Reimagined has what many would consider more “typical” artwork, if one could even feel comfortable using such an average word, in that it is more art for art’s sake and the kind of stuff one would hang on the wall. The paper is both cut away and glued down in layers, and sometimes it is painted.
Setting the Scene concentrates more on commissioned work — magazine covers, CD artwork, promotional posters and the like. Some of it, I recognized from sites like Fuck Yeah, Book Arts! or I’d already seen whatever location for which it was commissioned. I love the idea of hiring artists to do this sort of intricate work over producing something more expected. It stands out, makes a person stop and wonder, “How did they do that?”
Or, “That must have taken forever.”
Style and Substance concerns more functional pieces, in as much as a dress made out of paper could be called that. Fashion and furniture are both featured, as is jewelry. Some of the pieces were designed for a specific magazine layout, but others’ genesis seems to have come from the thought, “I wonder if we could make this happen?”
Text and Texture has a lot of layered work — different colored sheets of paper cut just so, revealing an image with surprising depth. Specialty lettering also turns up, as do preexisting photographs with sections cut away to create a whole new work.
Sculpted Space, as the name implies, focuses mainly on art installations in galleries and museums, as well as a few public spaces. Paper is made to look like dripping paint, or stalagmites, or even crystals bursting through the walls. Some pieces are exercises in perspective, including one where its appearance changes with the ambient light. The work is usually large, and this was the chapter where I most often thought, Wow, now this took some doing.
Somewhat ironically, I did not read this book on paper, but rather a PDF. I’ve seen the book in person at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art gift shop, so I know that its pages are large enough to where one could likely get a good sense of the detail involved in each piece. I found myself wishing I had it, and perhaps one day I will, but even more so, I would love to see the papercrafts in person. That trip to the museum further cemented the value of seeing quality works of art, up close, in order to really feel their impact. Only so much can be gleaned from a photograph, although I will say that everything in Papercraft 2 is expertly captured. The amount of time it must have taken to get the angles and lighting just right, I can’t even imagine.
Papercraft 2 is certainly a book I would recommend to anyone with an appreciation for the visual arts, no matter the discipline. The artists featured explore what is possible with the material in such wide-ranging ways, and it almost makes a non-crafty person like myself want to pick up an x-acto knife and fool around with some cardstock. This is expert, beautiful work, and I will often revisit it.
Full Disclosure: Gestalten sent me this book for review. I thank them for the gesture.