The Art of Rosamond Purcell.
Artwork by Rosamond Purcell. Introduction by Sven Birkerts.
Quantuck Lane Press, New York, 2006. 160 pp., 125 color illustrations, 7x9".
With her camera, Rosamond Purcell has long meditated on
how human beings classify and thus know the world. In
Bookworm, she turns her eye, indeed her whole attention,
to one of the oldest forms of collecting and conveying
knowledge—the book. When books decay, what is left of
narrative? The viewer/reader begins to (re)construct
knowledge from memories of other books, past experience,
scraps of words and, in some of Purcell's photographs,
faded and stained images that are now layered
with the skeletons and body parts of rodents, birds, and
insects that have left their marks and remains. Since childhood,
Purcell has collected ruined objects and damaged
books. Her persistent question is, how is knowledge
constructed when the ravages of time leave only layers of
decay? Purcell's photo-essay is the successful poetic
explanation of her feverishly haunting constructions.
But books about books, and particularly art and
photobooks, succeed best as objects of art, wherein the
tactile quality of the materials used has been carefully
considered. And while I have always loved Purcell’s
photographs, I found myself quite conscious of Bookworm
as an object, and want to make note of certain shortcomings.
Her images all look a bit too blue, acknowledging that
it is difficult to determine whether the artist’s palette is
truly predominated by the palest of blues without the originals
on hand. Each of her images are rich with densely layered
information, and the small trim-size of the book, and
thus the images almost register around 4x6 inches, makes
this reader inexplicably anxious, as if something of great
importance is being missed. Ultimately, there is a feeling of
loss that permeates this work and volume, which when
placed in relation to my own joy of book collecting, drives
home the point that all objects, and knowledge itself are
subject to the vicissitudes of time.-MARY ANNE REDDING
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