A Very Touchable Trio

A Very Touchable Trio

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Frank Gehry: On Line in its cardboard slipcase.

Three books to have, hold, coddle and cuddle.

The Imagination Cycle
By Ginny Ruffner
Museum of Northwest Art
La Conner, Washington
$30
www.museumofnwart.org

In the lampworked sculptures that established her reputation in studio glass and in more recent mixed-media installations, Ginny Ruffner has always celebrated the forces of creativity and imagination that go into the making of art in a spirit that manages to be playful even as it revels in a love of beauty. Last summer and fall, her exhibit "Aesthetic Engineering: The Imagination Cycle," at the Museum of Northwest Art, an exuberant installation of glass, steel and bronze depicting explosive flowers, massive leaves and twisted growing vines, was accompanied by a publication aimed at the child in us all. This slip-cased pop-up book, engineered and designed by Bruce Foster, echoes some of the floral forms in the exhibit, rendered in cartoon-like drawings and luminous delicate washes that recall Ruffner's lampworked pieces. The text is minimal, mostly banner-like tributes, such as, "These 'what if?' questions blossom into 'why not' ideas" and "Rooted in wonder, Imagination flows through everything all the time."

Frank/Gehry: On Line
By Esther da Costa Meyer
Yale University Press
New Haven, Connecticut
$29.95
yalebooks.com

For the architect Frank Gehry, sketching with a black felt-tip pen is a way of "thinking aloud" on the way to developing his singular designs. More than 20 Gehry's sketches executed over the last two decades, and representing an array of international projects, both built and unbuilt, are gathered in a witty book-object that is appealingly tactile-the volume, in its metallicized soft cover is slipcased in a cardboard box that resembles Gehry's cardboard furniture. The doodle-like sketches are shown side by side with the finished building or in some cases, a model. Esther da Costa Meyer, associate professor of art and archaeology at Princeton University, analyzes the drawings, noting that they are the first step in a long process that passes through models and computer renderings until the building is completed. They represent, she argues, Gehry's critique of the dogmatic aspects of modernism and his attempts to bring humor, emotion and his love of art back to the field. "Like his architecture," writes Da Costa Meyer, "his buoyant, quick-paced sketches express an eloquent plea for humor and ambiguity." The book accompanied a recent exhibition of 31 Gehry drawings at the Princeton University Art Museum.

Challenge VII: dysFUNctional
Edited by Judson Randall, texts by Robin Rice, Albert LeCoff, et al.
Wood Turning Center
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
$30
www.woodturningcenter.org

Since 1987, the Wood Turning Center has mounted the Challenge series, a triennial juried international exhibition whose mission it is to prompt artists to create innovative work. For Challenge VII, subtitled "dysFUNctional," the center's exhibitions committee wanted "artists and audiences to embrace a broadening of possibilities, a recognition that as in other crafts disciplines today, many kinds of work co-exist in harmony with the functional-even in a single artist's oeuvre," writes essayist Robin Rice in this catalog showcasing the 30 artists in the show. Designed by Dan Saal, the book provides immediate gratification, possibly comparable to seeing the show in person, through its interactive features. First there's the textured cover made out of ridged indoor-outdoor carpeting and the generous spiral binding. The book includes commentary and artist's statements for each work, all shown on pages of varying sizes and even textures that can be turned so as to present different configurations to the reader. Scheduled to tour for three years, the exhibition, which opened at the center last October, will be at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft (July 17-September 13, 2009) and many other venues through 2011.