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Art review: Andrew Uchin at dnj Gallery

August 11, 2011 |  2:55 pm

Andrew Uchin, "The Tyranny of Words," 2010,

As books are increasingly made of pixels instead of paper, it's not surprising that their quaint physical form should become fodder for artists. Andrew Uchin's spare photographs of the covers, spines and other parts of old tomes at dnj Gallery look like little abstractions, but are also paeans to the appealing physicality of books.

Isolated on white grounds, the images sometimes evoke painting. An illustration from a children's book is mottled all over with abrasions, suggesting a very slow, quiet form of action painting. The back of “Voices in Stone” is a plain gray expanse punctuated by a white library checkout card. It looks as if it were carefully placed to resemble a Hans Hoffman painting.

In other cases, the works are small jokes. "Art and Anarchy" is opened to the dedication page, which reads, "To Diane, who refuses to read it." In "The Tyranny of Words" the book is missing entirely, leaving only the dust jacket: words about words about the tyranny of words. At times these ploys are too cute. The cover of "Visual Thinking" has been ripped off, leaving the title page fuzzy behind a translucent white end paper. The corner of a book bearing the running figure of the Modern Library series is creased upward, as if he were turning pages in his haste.

Uchin's images are strongest when they record the personal and often emotional attachments we form with books, charting how intellectual engagement takes physical form. In "Josephine," we see only the page edges of a book lying on its side. Across the edges, someone has written "Josephine" in large letters, and at each end, the words "Black Boy." The edges become a highly personal alternative spine — it's impossible to tell whether the book is titled "Josephine," or whether it is a copy of Richard Wright's "Black Boy" that belonged to someone named Josephine. Regardless, it's poignant evidence of a unique relationship one is unlikely to develop with an iPad.

-- Sharon Mizota

dnj Gallery, Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 315-3551, through Sept. 3. Closed Sun. and Mon. www.dnjgallery.net

Photo: Andrew Uchin, "The Tyranny of Words," 2010, archival inkjet print, 16 x 20 inches. Credit: dnj Gallery

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