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Book of the Week: A Pick by Kevin Messina

Book of the Week Book of the Week: A Pick by Kevin Messina Kevin Messina selects R+R (Rest + Relaxation) by Ryan Arthurs as Book of the Week.
R+R (Rest + Relaxation) by Ryan Arthurs.
Houseboat Press.

This week's Book of the Week pick comes from Kevin Messina who has selected R+R (Rest + Relaxation) by Ryan Arthurs from Houseboat Press.

"I'm starting to see a lot more elaborately and thoughtfully produced book projects being released with increasing regularity, but it is still rare to encounter a photobook in which the physical object contributes as much to the experience as the content. This is one of those rarities.

The content, in this case, takes vintage found photographs of men in the military as its starting point. But then Arthurs takes the pictures someplace else entirely by screen printing brightly colored shapes over the figures in each image — simultaneously obscuring and highlighting the men. The result is a body of work that can be read on many levels, but it was the origins of the source material — photographs of servicemen at leisure — that led Arthurs to the very successful physical form of his book.

Unable to show the full body of work at an exhibition, Arthurs wanted to produce a small one-off book to show all of the images available for sale. His solution was to insert his images into a vintage military album. These particular albums can be challenging to find today, but they were extremely common during World War II, the period in which many of the original photographs were taken.

The contrast of the vintage album with the modernist imagery it contains has a remarkable impact. The form of the album is an intensely personal device, made all the more so here by the fact that both the album and the source material are real. When you hold this book in your hands, you are holding an object that once belonged to a man who may have been much like the men pictured in the images affixed to its pages. If that were all, the book would be merely interesting... add to it the remarkable way in which the artist has chosen to intervene in the original photographs, and you have something far more compelling.

That first copy of the book was stolen from the exhibition (perhaps the greatest compliment an artist can receive), setting Arthurs out in search of more albums so he could make a replacement. To date, he has made perhaps a dozen copies, each of them bearing the unique character of the vintage album his prints occupy. I've encouraged him to keep making them for as long as he can find albums, but in all likelihood, there won't be many more of these to come. Move swiftly, this one is special."—Kevin Messina

Purchase Book

R+R (Rest + Relaxation) by Ryan Arthurs. Houseboat Press.
R+R (Rest + Relaxation) by Ryan Arthurs. Houseboat Press.

Kevin Messina is the founder of SILAS FINCH, a design studio and publishing house based in New York. He likes to ski with his friends in Colorado.

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