Cedar Falls IA: Islam Aly, 2017. Number 4 of 30 copies, signed and numbered by the artist. Islam Aly is an Egyptian-born book artist and teacher based in Iowa. His books explore the possibilities of historical bindings in contemporary book art practice. They have appeared in international exhibitions in the United States and abroad, and in private and public collections. In his artist’s statement he writes: “When I make a historical book structure, I go through a learning process. I learn the history as well as the different physical aspects of the binding such as how a book form is constructed in a specific sequence. I learn about the use of different materials such as paper, wood, leather and dyes. I learn to make choices in selecting and replacing traditional materials that I don’t have access to. I use these different experiences to enhance my work in making artists’ books and to use historical and cultural references from these structures in the actual content. In essence, I wish to explore new ways to use the rich structures of historical books in contemporary artists’ book practice and incorporate contemporary content into strictly historical structures.”
Unleash is bound in a late Coptic style with laser engraved wooden boards and leather wrapping bands capped with engraved wooden pieces in the shapes of an angel and human head. The interior pages are laser cut with words about being confined, imprisoned, and restrained. All of the words fill the reader with a negative connotation suggestive of oppression, despite the lack of context. Then an angel appears. With each turn of the page, the angel makes a path through the words and breaks them apart until it is able to free itself from the book. The resulting negative space left behind forms the shape of a human face. A powerful statement about how restraint and confinement can be broken apart to restore humanity - or perhaps to force the reader to think compassionately of people who are currently held as prisoners (both literally and through societal, political, or religious decrees). Size: 3 x 6 x 2 inches.