Books, reimagined

Books are featured in the newest exhibition at Piermont Straus, a gallery and bookstore in the Hudson River community of Piermont.

But don’t expect to find them on a shelf – or ready for reading.

Instead, the pages of the books, along with catalogs, maps and other random paper finds, have been transformed into fanciful works of art that hang on the walls and alongside doorways or perch on the counters.

“Ramon Lascano: Reclaim, Recycle, Reimagine” features the varied creations of the Tivoli-based artist, who has been exploring the use of books and paper in his artwork for the past decade.

“It’s very contemporary, but there’s something very Old World about it,” says gallery owner Laura Straus.

Straus is also a photographer and photo editor who grew up in Purchase and now lives in Piermont with her husband, John Alexander. She met Lascano through Alexander, a private banker with many artists among his clients.

“He came home one day and said, ‘You have to meet Ramon,’” she says.

She did – and offered him the opportunity, almost immediately, to have a show in her Rockland County gallery.

Straus still savors the introduction provided by her husband. “As a couple, there’s something so lovely when your worlds collide.”

Straus says the exhibition is providing a memorable moment for both her and the community, as Piermont was especially hard hit by Hurricane Sandy and is slowly rebuilding.

Lascano’s works, once mounted, brought a renewed vibrancy to the gallery.

“It just sort of came alive,” she says.

Showcasing another artist from the Hudson Valley was a priority for Straus, who opened her gallery in October 2011.

“We like to keep it regional and we like to have different voices.”

As with most shows at Piermont Straus, there is an effort to tie things together with related materials.

During the holiday season, Straus also displayed and sold ornaments fashioned out of paper by Ashley Croyle-Mankoski and Laura Herron.

Lascano’s work, Straus adds, is all about taking lost objects and giving them a new life.

“We have books about what he does,” Straus says. “We have books on recycling, reclaiming, repackaging.”

In a way, Lascano’s work offers a fresh perspective on the written word.

Works with names ranging from “Japanese Fans” to “Wall Book,” “Badlands” to “Burst” captivated those attending the opening-night reception in early December.

One work to the next was labeled with details of materials used, from books to wood, maps to tracing paper, book catalogs to ink and twine.

“This I use a lot of, encyclopedias,” Lascano says, pointing to one large-scale work. “People don’t want (them) anymore.”

Throughout his work, he says, there is that underlying theme of recycling and repurposing. He is working with things often discarded by others.

“I don’t destroy the books, I give a new life.”

Lascano often sources his encyclopedias at library sales, but now established in his specialty, he often has people coming to him with raw materials.

By now, he knows what type of paper will age well, what works best for his intricate creations.

“You discover, working with paper, the quality of the paper, the thicker, the thinner,” he says.

At the start, Lascano says he was taking books and folding them into shapes that resemble tops.

“I started folding and one thing took me to another,” he says of his work’s progression.

But on the opening night at Piermont Straus, people were particularly drawn to works that featured wooden spools with artfully torn strips of paper where thread had once been. More than one gallery guest was seen to be examining the pieces closely, trying to read the words.

So, is there a deeper meaning? Does Lascano craft the works to embody a deeper story? Is he reading each strip of paper as he applies it to a work?

No, the Argentine-born artist says with a hearty laugh.

“English is my second language. If I read, I don’t work.”

“Ramon Lascano: Reclaim, Recycle, Reimagine” continues through Feb. 1 at Piermont Straus, 530B Piermont Ave., Piermont. Call (845) 459-3124 or visit piermontstraus.com.

 

 

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