Books invite metaphors: they are landscapes to be explored, windows to be seen through, pathways to knowledge. In her sparkling show at Offramp, Susan Sironi makes those metaphors palpable. She cuts through the covers and carves the pages of old illustrated books to shape three-dimensional tableaux (both illustrative and abstract) that resonate with the excavated contents, a kind of paper theater built of receding planes.
She tunnels into an edition of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," for instance, paring away the text and agglomerating John Tenniel’s delightfully drawn characters into the shape of a hand. A copy of "Gulliver’s Travels," the tale of another disorienting journey, is treated similarly, this time with the images comprising the shape of a foot. The scales of different illustrations get fused, the original spatial logic of each scene traded for a new, jauntily incongruous pictorial schema.
Sironi makes collages that toy somewhat interestingly with the illegibility of printed text, but her altered books are the main event. They hold their own in the company of work by other literary vandals, alchemists and dissectors such as Linda Ekstrom or Brian Dettmer.
With conceptual as well as technical deftness, Sironi turns a book on war films into a target made of concentric bands of fragmented images — soldiers, smoke, brambles, an eye — that also doubles as a lens. She uses one copy of a book on Japanese flower arrangement to craft a cool, syncopated mosaic of flora, and another to cut a nearly all-black, jagged-edged passage inward, a riff, perhaps on a reductive Zen aesthetic.
-- Leah Ollman
Offramp Gallery, 1702 Lincoln Ave., Pasadena, (626) 298-6931, through Nov. 20. Closed Monday-Thursday. www.offrampgallery.com
Image: Susan Sironi, "Bound in Illusion: Target Audience," from Offramp Gallery.