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Book Review: AP CP BL.


Book Review AP CP BL. Photographs by Christian Patterson Reviewed by Antone Dolezal It was with this in mind that I found the curious new series by Ahorn Books AP CP BL – a companion to Christian Patterson’s Bottom of the Lake – to be a refreshing resource in understanding the complexity behind Patterson’s narrative and the physical construction of the artist book itself.
AP CP BL
Photographs by Christian Patterson. Ahorn Books, 2016. 
 
AP CP BL.
Reviewed by Antone Dolezal.

AP CP BL.
Ahorn Paper 1.
Photographs by Christian Patterson. Text by Gerry Badger, Luc Sante, and Thomas Weski.
ahorn books, Berlin, Germany, 2016. 144 pp., black-and-white illustrations, 4¼x7½".


There are numerous online venues for the photobook review, and many persistently examine an often-tired discussion and deconstruction of contemporary visual narratives. These studies are always passing, and often limited in their ability to fully envelop us in the experience of thoughtful contemplation through the complex layering implicit in the artist book. It was with this in mind that I found the curious new series by Ahorn Books AP CP BL – a companion to Christian Patterson’s Bottom of the Lake – to be a refreshing resource in understanding the complexity behind Patterson’s narrative and the physical construction of the artist book itself.

In creating Ahorn Books, the once online photography magazine produced a much-needed niche that could never be adequately filled through the limitations of their older platform. Here we are given a physically modest handbook containing essays from Gerry Badger, Luc Sante and Thomas Weski, as well as an extensive two-part interview with Patterson. Each contributing writer takes a unique viewpoint in approaching Bottom of the Lake. Whether through the perspective of historical record, storytelling, or connections made through literary, visual and textural cues, the individual essays stand on their own, while as a group serve to compliment and expand upon one another.

AP CP BLPhotographs by Christian Patterson. Ahorn Books, 2016. 

And while Ahorn brought in voices from the photobook elite to ensure a compelling read - the most significant contribution to the deconstruction of Bottom of the Lake comes directly from the artist. The many components Patterson uses to construct a narrative become illuminated through his methodologies for creating a sense of place and experience resulting from the accumulation of layering and the deconstruction of those layers. The artist’s use of objects, text, sound and memory all coalesce to form a radically complex visual language relying heavily on the physical object of the book to form an understanding of its subject. Through the contributing essays and interviews, the reader is given a guide for better understanding the photobook as an art form and how physical objects and text can coexist alongside images to structure a complex narrative.

AP CP BLPhotographs by Christian Patterson. Ahorn Books, 2016. 

There is certainly a level of pretentiousness to the idea that a supplemental guide is necessary to lay out all of the possible tangents and conclusions a photobook has to offer. I for one questioned the need for such a book series, yet when I took a few days to thoroughly read AP CP BL it became a refreshing study, one that allowed me to expand upon my view of Patterson’s work, while also serving as a tool to broaden my knowledge of visual language in relation to the photobook. For me, this handbook exposed new paths of investigation, leading to a fresh stopover in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin that was surprisingly as rewarding as the first.

AP CP BLPhotographs by Christian Patterson. Ahorn Books, 2016. 

The allure of AP CP BL is that it forces us to thoughtfully consider why it is we are drawn to artist books in the first place. Through a simple and elegant design, this physically unostentatious guide sets a new precedent for understanding the language of images, while also serving as an object in its own right. This book series is meant to be held in contemplation, and to be both a challenge and model for expanding our visual vocabulary. It isn’t just a resource to better understanding how Patterson’s work functions, but how to better understand how the contemporary artist book functions. It is a model I am excited to see expanded upon, and will surely set a new standard for how we consume the examination of the photobook.— Antone Dolezal

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ANTONE DOLEZAL was raised on the eastern plains of Oklahoma and currently resides in Syracuse, NY. His photographs explore the American social landscape and its relationship to history, identity, community and mythology and are sometimes accompanied by vernacular imagery, found objects and fictional literature. His photographs have been shown widely, including exhibitions at 555 Gallery (Boston), Candela Gallery (Richmond), Filter Space (Chicago), Museo Nacional de Arqueología y Etnología (Guatemala City), photo-eye Books & Prints (Santa Fe), Webber Represents (London), in addition to being held in various private and public collections including the Museum of Modern Art Library (New York), Museum of Contemporary Photography (Chicago), New Mexico Museum of Art (Santa Fe) and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (Kansas City)

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