Chido Johnson’s  “Let’s Talk About Love, Baby”

Chido Johnson’s  “Let’s Talk About Love, Baby”

The Art of the Artist’s Book at the Oakland University Art Gallery through April 4, 2010
Valentine’s Day Event! Special informal talk with collaborating artists, Sunday, Feb. 14 from 2 to 4 p.m.

alt textFahrenheit 450 (Homage to Bradbury and Orwell), 2000-2010
by IAIN BAXTER&

Not one of those touchy-feely people? Don’t like to talk about love? Well, JUST GO READ A BOOK. Seriously! Read one of the books designed and made by an artist in Chido Johnson’s traveling project/installation, “Let’s Talk About Love, Baby.”

Born and raised in Zimbabwe, Johnson spent his youth reading whatever he could get his hands on. As fate would have it, the rural mission small library had an abundance of romance novels. At the time the project was conceived Johnson was living and teaching in Sweden, he came to the US at a time when love was not in the air. Politics du jour were focused on the tense situation in the Gaza Strip. Johnson responded strongly to how society diminished the individuals affected by the violence by referring to them as “these people.”

Thinking about our innate ability to homogenize individuals, Johnson turned to art, and the book project specifically, to root us back into experiencing love, life and humanity directly by living rather than being fed information off a computer screen.  Picking up one of the books from the beautifully crafted wooden shelves made by Johnson himself, you are swept into the precious imaginings of artists’ creations from around the world, using cassettes, tape recorders, French literature, sculpture, painting, silversmith, collage, photography and more. We’re taken on a journey into the heart and soul that leads us to what Johnson calls the “in-between space where pain and pleasure exist simultaneously … a space the word love can only begin to describe.”

Johnson’s vision is to someday have 1,000 uniquely made books, a library of love. The website created for the artists who participate in the project is an artistic labor of love. Visit http://www.letstalkaboutlovebaby. He was also chosen to be part of a conference on February 13th with “Artists” Book Reading, at the Joan Flasch Artists’ Book Collection at the CAA Conference in Chicago, http://www.collegeart.org/.

Johnson’s project is part of a larger show at the Oakland University Art Gallery, The Art of the Artist’s Book, works chosen lovingly by curator Dick Goody. In the exhibition’s beautifully crafted fold-out catalogue, Goody writes articulately about artists’ books:
“Walter Benjamin implied that only little-known, little-seen works of art…retain this pejoratively perceived aura. Artist’s books are therefore problematic in the sense that they evade such mass appeal…Their conversion into the realm of mass culture is almost impossible, which makes this exhibition all that more valuable; it is an exploration into the realm of intrinsically exclusive and private material.”

Participating artists range from local artists Lynne Avadenka, Ed Fraga, Susan Goethel Campbell and Dennis Jones to internationally renowned artists like Kiki Smith, Kara Walker, Mathew Barney and Christian Boltanski.

The breadth of work in the show is overwhelming, plan to take your time going through this exhibit. Like a good book you will not want to put it down.