Full cir­cle Ra­dius Books cel­e­brates its artists


Pasatiempo - - CONTENT - Michael Abatemarco

IN Fe­bru­ary of this year, San Diego’s Mingei In­ter­na­tional Mu­seum opened Black Dolls, an ex­hibit of more than 100 hand-crafted African-Amer­i­can dolls made be­tween the mid-19th and mid-20th cen­turies. Ac­com­pa­ny­ing the show is a cat­a­log co-pub­lished by Mingei and Santa Fe’s Ra­dius Books. Like the dolls, im­ages of which are printed on its pages, the book looks worn, its flex­i­ble, cloth­bound cover de­signed to un­ravel — not en­tirely, but just enough to pro­vide a sense of rap­port be­tween book and sub­ject. “I liked the way the book ref­er­ences the na­ture of these 19th-cen­tury dolls, which are worn and frayed around the edges,” said David Chickey, pub­lisher, de­signer, and ed­i­to­rial di­rec­tor at Ra­dius. “I like books that are in­ter­est­ing ob­jects, that feel unique. We wanted that book to be a $45 book be­cause it’s with a mu­seum ex­hi­bi­tion that’s trav­el­ing, and we wanted it to be more af­ford­able. Some peo­ple re­spond to our books and say they’re more af­ford­able than they ex­pect them to be. We try to keep them as in­ex­pen­sive as we can.” That’s good news for Santa Fe in ad­vance of Ra­dius Books Artists Week­end on Satur­day, Sept. 19, where copies of all avail­able ti­tles will be on hand for pur­chase dur­ing the event. “We are tent­ing the park­ing lot here,” Chickey said. “It’s a free event. We do a gi­ant book­store in the tent. We’re go­ing to have food trucks and the artists will be there to talk about and sign copies of their books.”

About 60 artists, writ­ers, and cu­ra­tors are at­tend­ing, whose tomes rep­re­sent the bulk of Ra­dius’ pub­lished ti­tles. Ra­dius has been in ex­is­tence since 2007. In its first year, the com­pany pub­lished four books: Mark Klett: Saguaros; John­nie Wi­nona Ross; Otto Don­ald Rogers; and Judy Tuwalet­stiwa: Map­ping Wa­ter. “David is a master col­lab­o­ra­tor,” Tuwalet­stiwa told Pasatiempo. “He has such a good de­sign sense. He started at a time when peo­ple were say­ing the book is dead, and it’s not. The book is very much alive, es­pe­cially in this kind of form where you should be hold­ing it in your hands.”

The com­pany has pub­lished nearly 100 books in to­tal. “When you work as closely with the artists as we do, some of the books take a few years to put to­gether and you nat­u­rally form pretty close re­la­tion­ships,” Chickey said. “I started re­fer­ring to the peo­ple we pub­lish as be­ing part of the Ra­dius fam­ily.” Chickey came up with the idea of do­ing an event with as many of Ra­dius’ pub­lished artists as pos­si­ble af­ter at­tend­ing an event in Chicago three years ago where sev­eral of them were present. He was sur­prised to learn that most of the artists did not know one another, although Ra­dius staff knew all of them. “They had heard of each other, but had never met. So I had this idea of invit­ing them all to come to Santa Fe for a week­end. It’s a fas­ci­nat­ing group of peo­ple who are di­verse and prac­tice dif­fer­ent dis­ci­plines in the art world. So that was the germ of the idea. We have a din­ner for them and a public event.” Among the artists who will be present for the event are James Drake, Vic­to­ria Sam­bunaris, and David Tay­lor. Tuwalet­stiwa, too, is at­tend­ing. The Gal­is­teo-based artist is work­ing on a sec­ond book with Ra­dius. The sub­ject is her glass work. “David said he wanted it to be about the ma­te­ri­als I’m work­ing with right now,” she said.

“Map­ping Wa­ter was ex­plor­ing mem­ory, some­thing some­what ab­stract. This is go­ing to be much more con­crete, as glass should be. It comes from rock be­com­ing sand and deals with ge­o­log­i­cal time. Glass is so present and yet holds so much of the past. That’s what this book will be.” The forth­com­ing book is sched­uled for re­lease next spring.

The Artists Week­end is more than just an op­por­tu­nity to pur­chase items from Ra­dius’ im­pres­sive ar­ray of art books and meet artists. Works by some of the artists, in­clud­ing hand­made, one-of-a-kind art books cre­ated specif­i­cally for the event, are on view. “In some cases they’re ac­cor­dion books that fold out, but they’re all hand­made, and they’re all dif­fer­ent,” Chickey said. In ad­di­tion, art­work can be seen in the gallery space of Ra­dius’ of­fice on Palace Av­enue. The hand­made books and other art­works are be­ing auc­tioned off in a silent auc­tion to ben­e­fit Ra­dius. In­for­ma­tion on the auc­tion can be found at www.ra­diusauc­tion.org. Ab­sen­tee bal­lots are be­ing ac­cepted un­til 2 p.m. on Sept. 19.

Ra­dius is com­mit­ted to the dis­sem­i­na­tion of knowl­edge and, as such, it do­nates 300 to 400 copies of ev­ery book it pub­lishes to a net­work of li­braries and ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions around the coun­try. “When I sat down to do the math on how many books we’ve ac­tu­ally do­nated, it’s more than 40,000, which is amaz­ing to me,” Chickey said. “We started mostly with un­der­served ru­ral li­braries.”

In ad­di­tion to its cur­rent cat­a­log, Ra­dius is com­ing out with new ti­tles, avail­able for pur­chase at the Artists Week­end for the first time, in­clud­ing

David Tay­lor: Mon­u­ments, about the pho­tog­ra­pher’s longterm pro­ject on bor­der mark­ers be­tween the U.S. and Mexico, and Bar­bara Bos­worth & Mar­got Anne Kel­ley: The Meadow, a book Ra­dius de­scribes as “part pho­toes­say, part jour­nal, and part sci­en­tific study.” No doubt each new ti­tle will be as dis­tinc­tive as its pre­vi­ously pub­lished ones. “When we’re think­ing about de­sign el­e­ments, we’re think­ing about de­sign from the in­side out. I don’t start a pro­ject and think, ‘This book needs to be this size and use this kind of bind­ing.’ It’s rather that we start the book and think about, with this kind of work, where do we nat­u­rally go? Part of Ra­dius’ mis­sion is to pub­lish books that are truly re­flec­tive of the artist’s works. We’re ob­sessed with the ma­te­ri­als that go into the books.”

Tuwalet­stiwa re­it­er­ated the point: “A re­tired cu­ra­tor from the Bieneke, Yale’s rare book li­brary, once said to me that a book is a form of com­mu­nion. I thought that was pro­found. With Ra­dius’ books, there is that sense. They are treated in that way.”

Spread from David Tay­lor: Mon­u­ments; above, from left, spread from Black Dolls, show­ing his­toric dolls from the col­lec­tion of Deb­o­rah Neff; John Con­nell: Works 19652009 book cover; be­low, Bill Jacobson: Place (Se­ries) book cover Op­po­site, pho­tog­ra­pher John Gos­sage with in­sert from The Auck­land Pro­ject; photo Kate Rus­sell Im­ages cour­tesy Ra­dius Books

David Chickey (cen­ter) and some of the Ra­dius fam­ily of artists; photo Kate Rus­sell

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