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Al Souza
Moody Gallery, Houston, Texas
Recommendation by Donna Tennant

Al Souza, “Eighth Extinction,” 2014, book covers and glue on wood, 10 1/2 x 24 1/2 x 1 1/2”. Photo: Stephen Petegorsky

Continuing through May 30, 2015

Al Souza is constantly exploring new materials. He works in series that may continue for years, as in the intricate assemblages he used to create from thousands of puzzle pieces. In the last few years, however, he has been working with rare and vintage books, the kind bound in leather with hand-decorated covers and intricate endpapers. Endpapers — one of the easily overlooked aspects of book design — are the fine papers glued to the inside front and back covers of a book that literally hold it together. For this show, he has created ten wall sculptures that direct attention to their elegant designs. Prior to the mechanization of the bookmaking process the design of the covers and endpapers was an important element of the book and included geometric designs and decorative abstractions inspired by flora, fauna, marble, and other patterns.

Souza searches for old books in antique stores, book fairs and yard sales in Massachusetts, where he resides. In earlier constructions he utilized the books’ pages, and now he is working with the covers. He stacks and glues together up to a dozen of them, some with the endpapers facing out, others with the covers visible, combining colors and patterns that work well together. For example, “Seventh Extinction” is dominated by various finely detailed patterns that feature similar shades of maroon, brown and blue. Their intricate designs vary from spherical cell-like patterns to classic marbleized papers. Many of these book covers show signs of age, which adds to their patina. “Sixth Extinction" has at its center a book cover with a library classification number and the year 1842 written with white ink on the worn leather spine. These new wall constructions reflect Souza’s continuing interest in texture, pattern and repetition, as well as his attraction to objects that were crafted by hand rather than machine.

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