Bookworm. The Art of Rosamond Purcell. Artwork by Rosamond Purcell. Introduction by Sven Birkerts.
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The Art of Rosamond Purcell.

Artwork by Rosamond Purcell. Introduction by Sven Birkerts.
Quantuck Lane Press, New York, 2006. 160 pp., 125 color illustrations, 7x9".

With her camera, Rosamond Purcell has long meditated on how human beings classify and thus know the world. In Bookworm, she turns her eye, indeed her whole attention, to one of the oldest forms of collecting and conveying knowledge—the book. When books decay, what is left of narrative? The viewer/reader begins to (re)construct knowledge from memories of other books, past experience, scraps of words and, in some of Purcell's photographs, faded and stained images that are now layered with the skeletons and body parts of rodents, birds, and insects that have left their marks and remains. Since childhood, Purcell has collected ruined objects and damaged books. Her persistent question is, how is knowledge constructed when the ravages of time leave only layers of decay? Purcell's photo-essay is the successful poetic explanation of her feverishly haunting constructions. But books about books, and particularly art and photobooks, succeed best as objects of art, wherein the tactile quality of the materials used has been carefully considered. And while I have always loved Purcell’s photographs, I found myself quite conscious of Bookworm as an object, and want to make note of certain shortcomings. Her images all look a bit too blue, acknowledging that it is difficult to determine whether the artist’s palette is truly predominated by the palest of blues without the originals on hand. Each of her images are rich with densely layered information, and the small trim-size of the book, and thus the images almost register around 4x6 inches, makes this reader inexplicably anxious, as if something of great importance is being missed. Ultimately, there is a feeling of loss that permeates this work and volume, which when placed in relation to my own joy of book collecting, drives home the point that all objects, and knowledge itself are subject to the vicissitudes of time.-MARY ANNE REDDING

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