Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Books Are Passe, Artist Believes Similar Things Will Exist, He Predicts

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Books Are Passe, Artist Believes Similar Things Will Exist, He Predicts

Article excerpt

WILLIAM HARROFF OFFERS a disquieting prediction for readers who cherish spending an hour or two each day with a book.

"We're pretty much presiding over the end of the age of the book," says Harroff, a book artist in Edwardsville. He spoke in a recent interview.

"Because it's a convenient form, there will always be things that will resemble books," he says. "But really, this is an age when the book itself is going to be a dinosaur. They will no longer be economically the best means of putting work out for readership."

Harroff, who has experimented with using text and illustrations in many contexts, isn't necessarily predicting his own extinction.

Then again, his definition of the term "book" extends well beyond conventional conceptions.

"In the United States," Harroff says, "when people think of books, they commonly think of the codex (or manuscript volume) form that everybody's so used to, because it's such an inexpensive way for publishers to manufacture books. So they only know those things with texts on a page, that are cheap and easy to distribute.

"Well, if you look back a few centuries, or you look at different cultures, you see things like scrolls or (Japanese) fans - many kinds of forms that were also used as books. That's what the book artist looks into to get some feeling for the variety of forms that this kind of work could take."

Harroff's work has been displayed in galleries in St. Louis, Chicago, New York and elsewhere.

Before becoming an artist, Harroff practiced more convention forms of graphic art. Among other things, he drew portraits with a quality of photographic realism that recalls the work of noted New York artist Chuck Close, for whom Harroff professes much of admiration.

In the early 1980s, while studying in Austria, an assignment from a famous German magazine illustrator prompted Harroff to ponder book art.

Luis Murschetz, an illustrator for the German newspaper "Die Zeit," assigned his class the task of creating work around the theme of British author Jonathan Swift's satirical novel, "Gulliver's Travels."

Harroff's response was to construct a sequence of postcards into a free-form narrative of the book. …

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