I recently exchanged books with Max Schumann – I gave him a book by Frans Zwartjes, I got one from him by Sam Falls. These are the first few sentences of the introduction to the book.
Sam Falls began making a series of graphite rubbings of the various tools, plants and other items in his studio. Using an ‘automatic’ drawing method (called frottage) developed by Max Ernst in the 1920s, these rubbings were created using sheets of drawing paper and a selection of coloured graphite sticks. They soon expanded to include the studio space itself, with large sheets of paper used to record the surface of the floor, walls, and windows.While these large surface rubbings look very much like abstract drawings, they are actually a curious hybrid of objective mechanical copying and subjective image making. As such they are consistent with Sam’s body of work, which spans a range of media and techniques but retains a conceptual link to the photographic process – using objective mechanical systems to explore the action of time, light, and colour. They are obvious parallels here with post-minimalist system-based art. Simple everyday materials (in Sam’s case graphite, dye, pigment, paper, and cloth) are combined using step by step procedures to test material properties and the process of change. Systems are put in place but the results are governed as much by the character of the materials and the process as by Sam’s aesthetic point of view.This working method is apparent within the production of the large rubbings. Sam’s intention was to create an objective snapshot of his studio while at the same time undertaking formal experiments with colour and colour mixing. His idea was to refer to the process of making photograms but replace the photosensitive paper used in this technique with coloured graphite and drawing paper.
Beautifully printed with colour on opaque white on black paper, what a book this is, what an artist’s book! Max is certainly stretching the borders of photography. I only hope he was able to find his way back to NY because the handle of his suitcase full of 25 kilos of books didn’t survive the journey. I still hope that Max and many others are prepared to continue to transport books to gatherings such as this because the personal experience of holding a physical book in your hands and leafing through its pages is much to be preferred to a slide-show on your monitor. www.printedmatter.com