The public option: Craghead opens the books

Image by Andr© Lemos.
Image by Andr© Lemos.

How to measure success? For many artists, the acme is having their work selected for the Whitney Biennial or perhaps profiled in Art Forum. For Warren Craghead III, though, the pinnacle is making art as publicly available as possible. He often leaves post-it drawings on gas pumps and in grocery stores, and he offers do-it-yourself books at his website for people to print and staple themselves.

This month, Craghead brings together an international group of like-minded artists for the exhibition, "Leaf and Signal," at The Bridge. Consisting of original works and pages printed from computer files, the show's artwork comes from books self-published by three individual artists and three collectives, who practice what Craighead calls "lo-fi" publishing. A few of the pieces are framed, but most–- and there are hundreds–- are plastered to the walls using wheat paste to create the feeling of street art.

"I wanted to kind of overwhelm if I could," Craghead says.

The floor-to-ceiling mosaic of images on the gallery's south wall represent Southport, England-based Caf© Royal, a group helmed by former abstract painter, Craig Atkinson, whose own mixed-media works fill the southern end of the east wall. The overall aesthetic is often raw and cartoonish, but there are moments of refinement, such as the tie-wearing, faceless heads drawn by Daniel Mackintosh in a series that mocks gallery-goers with captions like, "At openings this month, I will behave in an aloof fashion and won't talk to anyone. I will stand out."

In contrast to Caf© Royal's organized chaos, Kelly Lynn Jones's San Francisco publishing group, Little Paper Planes, creates meticulous letterpress prints (on view in the main gallery) and complex color works (displayed in the Bridge's anteroom). Falling somewhere between Jones's and Atkinson's approaches is Andr© Lemos's Opuntia Books, based in Lisbon, Portugal. Lemos, who was last in town for the Craghead-curated SSG show, "Impera et Divide,"–- and who painted a mural on the Bridge's exterior–- publishes everything from children's monster drawings to complex collages in books that often feature unusual aspects like velum overlays or fold-out sculpture.

The individual artists included in "Leaf and Signal" each use books to respond to the physical world. England-based Oliver East creates watercolor and pen-and-ink impressions of his travels for his series "Trains are...Mint." Franklin Einspruch also paints personal experiences, often supplementing his watercolor images with haiku-like poems. Meanwhile visual poet Geof Huth plays with typography and also photographs environmental poems he composes.

For Craghead, artistic success is literally–- and literarily–- about public exposure.

The exhibition, "Leaf and Signal," curated by Warren Craghead III, is on view through October 30 at The Bridge. 209 Monticello Road (across from Spudnuts). 984-5669.