Full circle Radius Books celebrates its artists
RADIUS BOOKS CELEBRATES ITS ARTISTS
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