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Al Zaruba

Book Art, Sketchbooks, Ideas and Influences

Posted 04.08.15

"A Game of Chess, Double Self Portrait" by Al Zaruba

A Note on this Exhibit: Al Zaruba will present a gallery talk about his exhibit at noon on Wednesday, April 22 in the Decker Library. Light refreshments will be served in the Pinkard Gallery outside the library doors. This talk is free and open to the public.

For thirty years I’ve worked in several media, from large-scale public installations to object making, painting, printmaking, performance, photography and collaborative social practices, such as the Dialog+ SoundNest installations at Artscape, which helped promote underrepresented experimental sound artists in a public arena. During these years I began making book art as an extension of my sketchbooks, shown here for the first time.

When I served as a senior Fulbright Fellow to Seoul, Korea in 2003-04, I fell in love with the classic accordion books used for calligraphy. They offered a panoramic perspective that allows for a flow of imagery and the paper has almost no resist, making mistakes impossible to remove and thus requiring an exacting approach.

I loved the challenge and so I began taking accordion books on my many travels, such as a trip to Istanbul, the Black Sea, Crimea and Kiev in 2007.

The largest book in this show is Swimming the Guthrie, which is a work in progress. It unfolds to 375 inches and was started in 2014 while in residence at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Ireland. While there I decided to open the book to the contributions of other residents, which included three internationally recognized composers, a noted folk singer, several poets, writers and other visual artists. It turned into an extraordinary month of deep creative growth including the birth of an unexpected new series of drawings, The Hairy Doubts, which are not displayed here.

On May 30 I return to Ireland to a new two month residency at the West Cork Arts Centre to create Talkinghouse, a mobile installation in which I’ll be socially engaging whomsoever over tea and a collaborative drawing session that deals with what haunts the Irish soul. In tandem, I’ll begin a second large format accordion book.

A visual omnivore, wildly eclectic sources influence my creative flow, hence I decided to incorporate a few items that are touchstones to some of my directions. These include few small sculptures and paintings, a print, Return to Me (which contains a torn photo of the eyes of my beloved niece who was tragically murdered), a pair of traditional Korean baby shoes, and other artifacts that hallmark my life. The antique Chinese cricket cage represents the five years I served as a pastor in Baltimore’s prison ministry. I’ve also included specimen seashells, as I spent 18 months diving in the Philippines. Shells are the foundation of my evolving sense of design.

Life is a glorious vortex.

April 8 to 24, 2015
Curated by Al Zaruba, '90, instructor in Foundation at MICA

Circulation Policy for Books on Exhibit

All items in this exhibit are personal property, and not available for circulation or viewing outside of the display cases.

Image Information

Thumbnail: Cover of Swimming the Guthie, an accordian book by Al Zaruba, 2014
This page: A Game of Chess, Double Self Portrait by Al Zaruba