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A collagist turns reading inside out

Susan Sironi's layered works are on display at the Offramp Gallery in Pasadena.

March 22, 2014|By Kirk Silsbee
  • Uncle Tom's Cabin, a sculpture from the exhibition "Susan Sironi: Forget Me Not," now at the Offramp Gallery.
Uncle Tom's Cabin, a sculpture from the exhibition… (Courtesy of Offramp…)

How many times has it been said that books are doorways? Open them and you can take little journeys through the minds of authors or the subject’s landscapes. Artist Susan Sironi has taken that metaphor and manipulated it in a very personal way. In what amounts to an act of reductive sculpture, she literally takes a scalpel to the concept and reshapes it.

Sironi alters the terrain of books and renders new sets of coordinates within each. In so doing, she invests objects with new experiential material. Her new show of book constructions, “Forget Me Not,” is now on view at Pasadena’s Offramp Gallery until April 20.

Sironi takes old books and neatly cuts different-shaped portholes into their covers. Then she surgically alters each successive page, cutting away sections and layers so that the paper in the book forms a forest or a corridor. Shapes commingle, twist and turn, and overlap in each volume. Sironi can create a thicket or an ever-receding set of paper curtains within a given depth-of-field.

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It’s a clever and original turn on the collagist’s art, as Sironi turns literature and illustrations into surreal tablets. Her pieces require incredible focus and discipline yet she’s a doer as much as a thinker: hack through 200 or so pages (on however small a format) and you can bet she’s improvising at many junctures.

The scale that Sironi works in helps to draw viewers into her oeuvre. Reading is an intimate, solitary experience and her book creations can be as compelling as good literature. She wisely doesn’t appear to try for the literal, eschewing the construction of new texts from old.

“Forget Me Not/The Image Makers” (2014) is made from a coffee table book of old Hollywood glamour portraits. Framed in a glass box, the pages have little flower-shaped cutouts. The effect is a bit like that of a set of windows, where each reveals a little more than the previous one. Sironi was a good sport about providing an identical volume on a nearby table. Thumbing through the color and black-and-white star photographs allows for an added appreciation of just how much she’s rewritten the book, so to speak.

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