Murmur.
Photography and mixed-media artwork by Ellen Gallagher. Essay by Caoimhín Mac Giolla Léith.
Scalo, Zurich, 2005. 800 pp., full color illustrations spread across five volumes of varying lengths., 6x5".

Murmur is an unusual exploration of the art book and book arts that is true to the various dimensions and modes of Gallagher's work. This catalogue comprises a five-book set to accompany her 2004–05 show at the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh. The several volumes survey work in various media—film, collage, paper sculpture, drawings and paintings—that include aquatic themes intermingled with subtle caricatures of black identity. Barely decipherable but fabled sea creatures, bobbing black heads on paper waves, scratchy frame-by-frame drawings over a scene from It Came from Outer Space, manipulations of advertisements from old issues of Ebony all comprise her multivalent output in the show and the catalogues. They also break the conventions of art books to beneficial effect. First, the packaging literally hinges on a neat but simple device: magnets in the spines of these books cause them to adhere to each other in a snap. And for some reason, some of the first and last signatures are stitched together three-quarters of an inch out from the spine, causing the pages there to open less than the rest. Most of them function as flip books to convey snippets of the 16mm film loops from the exhibition, but also contain production ele- ments that work as conceptual facets. Alternating pages of the central volume that contains the curator’s text fold up to double the height of the book, perfectly suited to feature Galloagher’s barely-there paintings. This act of unfolding slows the pace of looking at the book, as the frame-per-page structure of the other four books accelerates it. Either way, the regular rhythm of looking is interrupted, causing the reader to look closer—an enforced change in the viewer’s perspective and attention that visual artists would delight in. - ALAN RAPP Read Publisher's Description.

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