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Thomas Rose and Wilber H. Schilling's 'In Association': Making beautiful books together

'Arthur & Barbara', 2010 by Thomas Rose (artist, author) and Wilber H. Schilling (artist, design, printing, binding)
'Arthur & Barbara', 2010 by Thomas Rose (artist, author) and Wilber H. Schilling (artist, design, printing, binding)

Artist-author Thomas Rose and book artist Wilber H. Schilling present six collaboratively fine press and mixed media book works as part of In Association, a series of exhibitions highlighting the collaborative nature of book arts, at Minnesota Center for Book Arts. Filled with lovely images and ideas, all wrapped in the most creative packaging, it's an exhibit that surprises and delights, and makes you wish that you could have one of your very own. 

'Where Do We Start?' 2002 by Thomas Rose (artist, author) and Wilber H. Schilling (design, printing, binding) and other authors
'Where Do We Start?' 2002 by Thomas Rose (artist, author) and Wilber H. Schilling (design, printing, binding) and other authors

In Time Frames, 2008, Rose and Schilling have created a handmade book capturing four architectural spaces -- the Orpheum Theater in Minneapolis, the Palace Theater in New York, the Herman Uihlein residence in Milwaukee, and the Second Ward Savings Bank in Milwaukee, all of which Rose's grandfather, Thomas Leslie Rose, and his partner, Charles Kirchhoff, designed at the beginning of the 20th century. The images include photographs of the actual spaces and the original drawings for those spaces. The exhibit includes framed images selected from the book, as well as the book itself, which becomes a kind of architectural object. Unfortunately, because the book is encapsulated under glass, you can't fully experience it, but the images displayed give a wonderful sense of the buildings, and there are some really nice shots of the inside of the Orpheum especially. 
'Secrets' 2012 by Thomas Rose (artist), Wilber H. Schilling (letterpress printing, binding) and Lo Ch'ing (author)
'Secrets' 2012 by Thomas Rose (artist), Wilber H. Schilling (letterpress printing, binding) and Lo Ch'ing (author)

The most visually stunning work of the collaboration comes in Winter Book, 1994. It is filled with Rose's haunting black-and-white images and memories surrounding his parents and the house they lived in. Supplementing the displayed books are several larger works that show grotesque figures, almost as if they come from a nightmare. 

Another wonderful piece is called Where Do We Start, which came out of conversations Rose had with Bryant Griffith, an educational theorist, about the nature of their education during the late 1940s and '50s. More than any of the other pieces, the work really shows how much the book can lend itself to the content. In his artist notes, Schilling talks about the problem he had with school -- that he was taught in a very linear fashion, so he designed the book in a very nonlinear way. So there are not only many disruptions within the book itself -- in the form of scribblings and random subconscious murmurs -- but the back section of the book is glued with a 90-degree twist, making it not a very user-friendly book to read from beginning to end. 
'Where Do We Start?' preliminary work by Thomas Rose (artist, author) and Wilber H. Schilling (design, printing, binding) and other authors
'Where Do We Start?' preliminary work by Thomas Rose (artist, author) and Wilber H. Schilling (design, printing, binding) and other authors

The one frustrating part about the exhibit is the glass cases that shield the viewer from the work. While it's understandable to protect the pieces, they just beg to be touched, felt, and examined. Observing the books through a glass, having no chance to turn the pages, can be disappointing. While the curation of the exhibit allows the viewers to see different images pulled out in frames, we are prohibited from a truly interactive experience.  

In Association runs through November 4 at Minnesota Center for Book Arts, at Open Book, 1011 Washington Ave. S, Minneapolis. Public hours are Monday and Wednesday-Saturday 10 a.m.- 5 p.m., Tuesday 10 a.m.-9 p.m., and Sunday 12-4 p.m. 


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