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James Allen, May 1914

James Allen, May 1914 (2017), book excavation [Russo Lee Gallery, Portland OR, May 4-27

James Allen: Northwest Bound

Russo Lee Gallery
Portland OR – May 4-27, 2017

James Allen, Sunday Comics

James Allen, Sunday Comics (2016), book excavation [Russo Lee Gallery, Portland OR, May 4-27]

James Allen, A Secret Voyage

James Allen, A Secret Voyage (2017), book excavation [Russo Lee Gallery, Portland OR, May 4-27]

James Allen is a Portland-based artist who uses books as a medium to create illustrative sculptural works. The artist finds thick volumes with subject matter ranging from botanical and historical reference books to comic anthologies, carving into these pages and selectively isolating fragments of the content. While Allen lets his compositions arise intuitively, the altered objects, referred to as “book excavations” read like thoughtful and cohesive 3-D montages, where the original books become silent participants in the art making process.

Allen’s intricate pieces are meticulously cut page-by-page with a scalpel and x-acto knife, allowing central illustrations to remain while revealing bits and pieces from the depths of underlying pages. The effect of this layering and revealing process obscures any linear narrative of the original book; the finished works are instead beautiful vignettes with their own stories, rearranged into a non-linear format, creating new meaning. Often these art pieces rescue discarded books, giving attention to their visual appeal and discovering a hidden poetic value in things that have been lost in time, like relics that are once again relevant.

As archaeologists patiently use trowels and brushes to peel back layers laid upon the past, Allen similarly searches through pages rather than soil to expose words and pictures held within hardbound books that may have been softly put aside. These “excavations” are singular visual arrangements that may never have been seen, but were always there.

Allyn Cantor

 Tue, Apr 4, 2017