Garrett Stewart. BOOKWORK



The whole issue of making and matching via schema and correction in the evolu­tion of realism (Gombrich) narrows when the schema is entirely received in the first place from finished and published results of landmark works in the evolution from realism to post-impressionism, Poussin to Cezanne. Rakuzin's art doesn't just compla­cently lean on tradition. It puts the tradi­tion right there in front of us, leaning on the easel—and, through it, on the private shelf it renders. That's why one of the things the viewer does in looking at Rakuzin's books is to read them, and not only their titles. And the text of his pictures might go like this, naturalizing their own thematic exaggera­tion: for any painter of ambition, some par­ticular history of painting—a line of emula­tion and mutation—will be open to view, to the discerning viewer, in any canvas adding to it. In Rakuzin's work, yet more explicitly, this tradition comes before perception in ev­ery sense, refreshed from within by citation.

They are more than "oversize" in the li­brarian's sense. Across the gallery space in Moscow, Paris, Tel Aviv, or London, these swelling folio volumes appear a little nearer to you than they really are. Or, more to the point, you to them.1 Though nothing like photorealist close-ups, they make an exorbi­tant claim on the eye, oddly intimate. Rather than receding—as they would in an illusion­ist bookshelf—they loom large. And by their titles alone, even without releasing a given artist's reproduced image, they speak vol­umes. Naftali Rakuzin remembers the first book cover he designed as a child, for Gulliver's Travels. Retaining something of this in­nocence and wonder, his later homage still convey a Lilliputian's awe at the towering influence of the tradition he so luxuriantly revisits—and enlarges upon. Not illusions at all, his paintings offer optical allusions to the painterly archive they expand by reca­pitulating—in all its cultural heft, shelf by shelf. The art of the book seems diffused before our eyes to the received Book of Art.

These are not a painter's typical reflexive still Iifes: not atelier scenes, with brushes and palettes heaped on a workbench, half-finished canvases angled against the wall. Rakuzin paints instead the source rather than the instruments of his art, but already made his own in those lateral cadences of color that orchestrate his compositions. The history of art comes before us bound for vi­sual uptake and variation. Reversing the miniaturizing effect of photography that ex­plained for André Malraux the origin of art history as we know it, Rakuzin's books, be­yond their inscribed titles, disclose at times an amplified catalog image as if—by the provocations of scale alone—it were strain­ing to break out into its original propor­tions, or at least its native texture, if only through another artist's intervening stroke and pigment. Reversing as well the histori­cal trajectory defined by Walter Benjamin, the effect is again to demedíate "mechanical reproduction" in a return not to origination, exactly, but to renewed "aura."

Son of a book illustrator, Rakuzin was himself trained to add images to books. By a considered reversal, now he makes second­ary images of books, indeed illustrated ones.

These are the art volumes he has gathered around him during his travels—from Russia to Israel, New York to Paris—in his quest for a still-life technique worthy of his heroes: Chardin, Cezanne, and Morandi. Retriev­ing his early skills in the lettering of book covers, Rakuzin delivers up the painters' iconic names in a masterly display of differ­ent typefaces, block or serif, perpendicular or cursive. Yet these identifying spines are far from trompe 1'oeil. Rather, they dispel the literalist eye view, replacing an ocular glance with the overview of invested recog­nition. The folios are not physically bulking so much as imaginatively engulfing in their spur to rumination: a Platonic group por­trait of one artist's private canon, where the lack of crisp or rigid definition, each volume harmonically assimilated with the others, becomes in its own right definitive.




Not for holding, then, these books are just fractionally withheld by technique, with its slight veiling of detail, as if they are recog­nized rather than seen by the adept mind's eye: a library forever virtual. Rakuzin avoids the expedient photographic interface of so much postmodern work by moving to canvas via pencil sketch—deliberately in the manner of still-life execution down through the cen­turies. One result is that the emblazoned ti­tles of his companionable books appear soft­ened by mental use, more acknowledged than deciphered. In their initial drawing "from the life," they dodge photographic interven­tion in order to evoke exactly the still-life archive that Rakuzin is already (and in the other sense) drawing from. In a process he calls "translation"—with his metaphor itself derived from bibliographic rather than visual culture—the finished canvas, in its passage from delicate sketch to thinly applied oil, ar­rives as somehow trans-muted as well, satu­rated more in affect than in hue, hazed by the sfumato of the familiar. The high-sheen print stock of art publication thus dissipates, by way of recovery, into the weave and texture of the original images on photographic file within such books, sketches and paintings both.

Misted ever so slightly in this way, Rakuzin's repictured prints are no sooner redrawn for us than withdrawn from us, not in the least fogged by nostalgia but blended in a planar space of cause and ef­fect at once: the simultaneous background and foreground of present craft. For all the linear precision of Rakuzin's brushwork, the relative low-fidelity of treatment comes to seem a matter of keeping faith with—as if the exposed and softening grain of the ma­terial support, paper or canvas, were the mark of the imaginatively ingrained. Tacit commentaries in their own right, these re­painted texts of art's history are glossed by memory and desire rather than re-seen in high-gloss mimesis. And out of their low­ered resolution comes the heightened re­solve of the new painter himself.

Unshadowed by deathliness, the French term nature morte simply identifies the "still life" as a time-canceling excerpt from the nonhuman world—often including books among its objects of paradoxical de­sire and disuse. But when the still life ren­ders books almost exclusively, as in Rakuz­in's oeuvre, and art books at that, it is la vie of cultural transmission that is arrested in review. As representative modern artist in the still-life mode, Cézanne appears either on the spine of one book after another or unfolded by example in double-page plates of Cézanne/Still Life with Fruits. His work is found as well, so we've seen, on the cover of the eponymous volume in The Nature of Still Life (fig. 3.2), the wordplay of the bor­rowed title commuting between the world under representation ("nature" in that sense) and the "essence" or leading features of the figure-free genre.

As it happens, that book's chosen vi­sual treatment by Rakuzin borrows most directly, of all his shelf pictures, from the optical tease characteristic of the quasi­illusionist mode, with the central volume easing out just over the front edge of the shelf into spectatorial space along with the curve of the ribbon bookmark to the left. All one needs to do, on revisiting our fantasy gallery beneath the book-shaped towers of the Bibliothèque nationale, is imagine the same paperback volume placed (rather than painted) on a damask tablecloth next to a guttered candle and a bowl of actual rotting fruit, and titled in French Le nature de la nature morte, to sense the ontological gap needing to be leapt here—rather than closed—between the book portrait and the book sculpture, in their common as well as contrary terms.




In the lower-right corner of Rakuzin's paint­ing Seurat appears the oil simulation of one of the pointiliist's renowned charcoal sketches, at the bottom right of which we see in turn Rakuzin's minuscule surname signed over its surface. In his own hand­writing, and even in its anomalous place­ment this time, the gesture seems indeed like the tipped hand of Rakuzin's whole aesthetic. Given that the book pictures themselves are frequently signed by him in the most reduced and discreet of lettering, the suggestion may arise—and who would doubt it?—that Naftali Rakuzin is the real auteur of the repainted books we see as such, made his own by a demediation that is followed fast on the heels by new mastery. Which is why, with no such opportunity as offered by the Seurat drawing, he usually signs across one of the horizontal shelves themselves, as if between the parallel lines of their underdrawing. His self-declared technique is thus tacitly identified, literal-ized, as the sustaining support of the same tradition that inspires him.

Then, too, on the score of such reflexive acknowledgment, who would be surprised to find—among the narrow nameless pub­lications wedged in alongside the folios and assorted bulletins—a thin catalog or two from Rakuzin's own exhibitions? For this is an artist whose large-format works must submit, with each new show, to their own double reduction on the miniaturized page of photo-print dissemination: made smaller even than real volumes, let alone smaller than the aggrandized expansive space of his privately imagined archive. Only in person can one see Rakuzin's books through his own wide-eyed gaze. It is irresistible to add that I had opened this paragraph, with its imagined canvas of auto-depiction, about a year before the artist did indeed follow up on his June 2009 London exhibition with just such a mise en abyme of his own shelf portraiture, the Sims Reed Gallery brochure from the show—with the not quite full-size detail on its cover thus inset at a strangely receding scale amid some of the other real catalogs its cover image duplicates (fig. 3.3).

And once again, in Rakuzin's craft, no photograph comes between the photo­graphed paintings in or on real books and their aesthetic treatment as oil renderings. No photorealism here; just venerable still-life painting—yet distilled to the archive of its own tradition. According to Rakuzin's aesthetic, the catalog reprint of the canon­ized masterpiece must be imprinted by way of his reconception—as much as another textual object might be simulated, manipu­lated, or defaced in the faux book of sculp­tural conceptualism. To encounter the so-called art book in this way is not primarily to appreciate the art of books or the theory of art, either one. It is simply to enter the history of art at its receiving end. And to take up with its present output—in Rakuz­in's own canvases. The reprinted image is made anew. Made a new one, a painting.

The artist's search for a method took him to New York in the early 1970s, where his brush with conceptual art returned him instead to the brushwork and representa­tion of his earlier Moscow training, and this without the mimetic servitude—and pervasive low-level irony—of the compet­ing photorealist school of that same '70s period. What might have been an autobio­graphic closed circle, however, becomes an open exploratory spiral of aesthetic reflec­tion. For in a deep-going sense, Rakuzin's work is indeed touched by this watershed postmodernist moment—and both its fork­ing movements, as we've surveyed them above: hyperrealism versus the iconophobic rebuke of pictorialism in text art; on the one hand, the démystification of painting by its reduction to the near-mechanical duplicate of a mechanical snapshot; on the other, the disintegration of the painted image into the verbalized filters of its recognition within a presupposed discourse—institutional at base—of the aesthetic in particular as well as of visuality in general. The result at each pole: mechanically clear-cut images; me­chanically clear-cut stencil lettering about the nature (or non-naturalness) of any pic­torial image whatever—and in the absence of all such. It is within the tensions of this double context that this one painter's re­turn to tradition exerts its real pull.




Rakuzin's swerve from anything like the word-works of a conceptualist trend takes him a full 180 degrees, instead, into the hon­orific writing-out of painters' names rather than the discursive prevention of their im­ages—and indeed, further yet at times, into the "de-printing" and recopying of their al­ready reproduced paintings, though never in the prevailing mode of pop simulacrum or postmodernist citation. At one contempo­rary extreme, then, as avoided by Rakuzin: sheer words, absolute optical opacity, con­cept exiling percept in demurral from the fetishized museum object. At the other, equally avoided by Rakuzin's painterly book-works: aesthetic delectation vacuumed out by a "transparent" photomechanistic image that seems no more artful than the press of a button—or, with brush in hand, than the ongoing flicks of a technician's wrist. In between: the letteral finesse and pictorial brio of Rakuzin's textured execution, where the publisher's now-digitized font types are reinvested with a craftsman's outmoded but remotivated skill.

Both the conceptualist irony and the automatic photomechanical reduction that Rakuzin skirts are easy to sense lurking on the flip side of those allusive shelves. To gauge the full seriousness of his de-mediation, his return to pigment from color printing and industrial typeface, one can imagine the gesture otherwise. Who needs the auratic masterwork in the age of photo duplication? Who needs the museum in the age of the high-definition art book? And, for that matter, what is the new art piece ever doing but painting its way into the archive? And what is the history of art, anyway, but a litany of name brands in fancy folios and high-profile fonts? Even when, in formats similar to Rakuzin's, an art book's illus­trated cover might be turned toward us, or a plate turned inside out, a distanciating ef­fect could well be dominant: either putting the reproduced reproduction so out of fo­cus, or at such an anamorphic angle, that no precision would be discerned, no borrowed appreciation achieved; or else duplicating the original so lavishly, so slavishly, that we are in fact in the presence of a simulacral Cézanne—or at least the stunning double of an expert photo of one. How close the mise en page would come, in a case like this, to the abyssal freefall of metapictorial irony is not hard to sense. Nor hard to exclude from consideration when faced with Rakuzin's very different book pictures.




Rakuzin's inscribed canonical surnames are thus in every way the inverted shadow dou­ble, indeed the intended mirror correction, of conceptualism's deconstruction of the ocular signified by lexical form. The mono­graphic titles maintain a deference to genius rather than its continuous deferral by the mocked discourse thereof. There is wit here, but not the usual wit of iconophobic inge­nuity. Technique turns wryly back on itself, but not with a skeptic's tongue in cheek. These images do not paint themselves into the corner called postmodernist irony. It would be better to call them postcanonical: reviewing as they do the tradition they honor, rethinking its lines of transmission into current aesthetic practice. Never does one suspect a mere intertextual send-up: all painting copies an already existent copy; all is citation and pastiche; innovation is only the infinite regress of the derived. Rakuzin's paintings are not discursive in this easily knowing sense. Instead, they station them­selves in regard—regard to, regard of—an illustrated discourse that they have no wish to demur from or repudiate. These are not metacritical statements. They are technical investments.

So, in the very reflexivity of their con­cept, they invert the conceptualist prior­ity of word to image. At the same time, Rakuzin's work would invite just as insis­tent a contrast—he thinks so too—with that opposite school represented by another contemporary painter working entirely in the photorealist rather than conceptual­ist mode. This is the deft technician Paul Béliveau, who paints photorealist "details" of shelved books in a series called Les Ha-manités, volumes truncated top and bottom to about half their actual height and then multiplied tenfold or so in dimension. What is left, at up to six-foot scale, represents a few vertical inches of the photos and letter­ing on the spines of illustrated popular biog­raphies—Lindbergh, Callas, JFK, Marilyn— industrial images that Béliveau's exacting brush translates, by the scrupulousness of a second-order mechanicity, into monu­mental simulacra. Borrowing the "aura" of the original only in the devolved sense of an international personality's "star power," these illustrated biographies, at their in­flated human height, bear the mark of cul­tural objects larger than life. Having de­parted entirely from the anthropomorphic scale of a held book to that of an incarnate fame, these enlargements—magnifications seems the more apt optical term—offer a decisive contrast to Rakuzin's absorptive still lifes. The frisson of Béliveau's illusion-ism has only and precisely to do with the way his painting mimes a photographic detail, with no off-frame space suggested. There is no temptation to reach in for the mammoth books. There is no inwardness whatever to their frame. Nor do they reach out to us. The reflexive irony of these can­vases, such as it is, seems circumscribed in the recognition that the photorealist artisan is painting at one and the same time—with instrumental precision—not just industrial typeface but, here and there, actual photo­graphic details of these legendary figures

from the wrapped spines of their documen­tation, thus redoubling the dissemination of an already and entirely "mediated" fame. He does so by putting no visible distance between his technique and the borrowed iconic reprints he lifts from publishing technology.

The contrast with Rakuzin has in part to do with the idea of spatial recess, of what might lie at right angles to the canvas's pan­orama of spines. Béliveau is more than adept at catching the slight curve of glossy jackets tucked around his gargantuan hardbacks, all fitted flush to each other on the shelf— but that curvature stays minimal and illu­sory. These paintings have no more depth than a photograph. By contrast, Rakuzin's books do not appear flat and fixed in the same way. They have imagined sides—with covers sometimes turned 90 degrees to­ward us. And insides too—sometimes fac­ing out. And, through it all, they have the look not of real books but of their painted evocation. When I asked him about Béliveau in correspondence, Rakuzin granted that he has "something in common with me, but very superficially. He makes painted photos. I make paintings. At least I hope so."

The remark is worth pausing over. For it may well install a complex grammar of differ­entiation. Aren't the common denominators between these two craftsmen "superficial" precisely because, and in the nonpejorative sense, Béliveau's work is deliberately so: a remediated surface image, or several in a continuum. And wouldn't it be fair to let the subsequent syntax of Rakuzin's comment translate further into the near paraphrase 'I paint paintings"—where paint would dis­cover itself as two kinds of active verb at once: not just cognate (paint my paintings) but transitive (paint others' paintings, as they appear on covers or printed pages)— in the way one makes paintings of people or scenes? In other words: "I remake paint­ings." One contemporary painter, Béliveau, claims his belated place in the history of art only when visually, if all but imperceptibly, remediating the work of mechanical and industrial reproduction; the other painter sedulously demediates the printed archive of that precedent tradition. What results is of course a medial gesture in its own right, but not until the intervention of print and press has been cleared away. For Rakuzin wrests a given canvas (fully or partially glimpsed) from its status as reproduction into the realm of the freshly produced: a participa­tory treatment rather than a simulated im­print, taking up with the predecessor rather than just knocking it off.




At this juncture, it should be possible to bear down more closely on what one might hope to gain from the term demediation. And again by contrast with the received alter­native. The act of remediation implies that the transmissive function of the original has been retained despite its new overlaid means. Computers, say, borrow the data­storage impulse from bibliographic culture. Instead, demediation lifts away from the mission of transmission itself, from the medial function, so as to contemplate the space between canceled means and new manifes­tation. Remediation activates and thereby foregrounds the mimetic or communicative operation, duplicating an original order of effect at a second degree of portability or transmission. In contrast, demediation tends both to reframe and evacuate the original treatment and intent, replacing its means toward a new end.

One can ponder the complexities en­tailed in this distinction by contrast with certain facile conclusions to which it can too quickly lead. In photorealist paintings, for instance, the precisions of stroked or airbrushed acrylic, sometimes even a thin oil application, turn the transitional prompt of high-resolution photographs into high-definition canvases, landscapes or espe­cially cityscapes, usually vistas without fig­ures. In such cases, we are to think mostly of the off-frame figure behind the onetime lens. At urban rather than domestic scale, the photorealist painting tends to become a still life by default rather than by aesthetic selection—not Dutch tabletops, of course, but rather L.A. used car lots or New York storefronts, yet motionless nonetheless, inanimate. Apart from the avoided chal­lenge of perfect humanoid duplication in such work, this exclusion of the living body from the original photo tends to emblemize by metonymy the supposed removal of hu­man presence—including its expressive or "stylistic" imposition—from the simulated automatism of representation. And what about the secondary reproduction of such effects? By a certain ironic loop in the cata­loging of hyperrealist canvases, photography remediates the already photo-duplicating brushwork with enough appreciative detail (such is the printer's technical goal, at least) that one can detect here and there on the repictured canvas the medial intercession of the artist's temporal labor as well—even in its concerted illusion of instantaneous capture. If it succeeds in its archival func­tion, the professional photorealist catalog doesn't make the paintings look any more like photographs—except in scale (though this is of course no minor thing)—than they would on the wall.

Hence the exception that would cement the rule. To paint again any such art book reproduction, whether or not the reprint of an already simulated photo-print (as in the case of a photorealist canvas), is openly, and doubly, to undo the manifest medial (that is, mass-productive) function. Such a demediating operation can be highlighted by internal contrast within a single can­vas, as happens when Rakuzin repaints on an upper shelf an early, prepixilated Chuck Close self-portrait, the huge 1967-68 acrylic canvas serving now as folio book cover; on the shelf below, a Rembrandt self-portrait as volume cover, the baroque light of this image shading his eyes as if he were wear­ing glasses as large as Close's (fig. 3.4). This paired de-duplication, if you will, begins by embedding the enlarged and grainy photo simulation evoked by Close's vast canvas, along with (over and above) Rembrandt's different oil style, in a larger still-life tableau of unusable closed catalogs; and then routes the two instances of photo duplication back around through a new draft stage—via pen­cil sketch—to an original oil treatment of Rakuzin's own. Put it that these Close and Rembrandt covers are not remediated by Rakuzin so much as translated to Rakuzins, their pictured textual and commercial func­tion quietly demediated in just that way.

And add that they become auto-portraits in their own right: not of the Paris painter but of his shelved trove of inspiration. In a related vein, the Australian photoreal­ist Victoria Reichelt has turned lately to trompe l'oeil bookshelf "portraits" that are accurately full-size, rather than interpreted by enlargement as in Rakuzin's works— or "popped" up further into hyperbole In Béliveau's. Reichelt's most notable earlier paintings had been the black, white, and gray renderings of predigital photographic equipment in museum-like isolation against bland backdrops, bringing oil to the pre­serving rescue of the medium (and its rap­idly antiquated machines) that in a previous century threatened to eclipse it—or at least bringing paint to the record of that newer medium's outmoded apparatuses. More re­cent than these technological studies, her bookshelf renderings—themselves based on photographs of actual private libraries—are titled by proper name as implicit "portraits" because the books alone are meant directly to bespeak the personality of their collec­tors, as in the oil work Alasdair Macintyre— with no philosopher, only philosophy books, on view.

The very concept of portraiture has, of course, a special valence in the ontology of the preserved (and hence transmitted) image. But books can live again in art as much as faces. In etymology begins typol­ogy. A medium mediates, gets from there to here. Painting is one such. She's long dead in Lombardy, but here she is still. A mass medium mediates without limit, its repli­cations potentially endless. Photography is one such. He's everywhere on the Time cover this week. Remediation in turn mul­tiplies one mediation by means of another. The reprinted painting in a museum catalog is such a remedial image. Alternatively, de-mediation removes the means itself from its original, cancels the primary message func­tion for another sedimented and metatex-tual one. Again, imagine Rakuzin's process returned to three-dimensional bo ok work. Art catalogs in simulations twice as large as useful lined up on a museum floor in a per­manent state of wry unopenability would serve—in their indifferent attitude (their inert stance) toward museum display—to cancel the same mediating function that is surrendered in Rakuzin's case by their cel­ebratory rendering in oil.

So once more into the breach; the vis­ible breach, though invisible as such (as difference or gap, that is, rather than as optical surface), between an object of me­diation and the medial negation effected by its secondary representation. In Rakuzin's canvases print and photo-print, glossy stock and applied color ink, disappear into paint, and their functions with them, when he does over his folios in oil. This gesture requires further pausing over in turn. If al­ready these paintings have risked seeming a digression from one's thinking about book-works, at least the reason for this shouldn't be that they are paintings rather than sculp­tures. In being adduced to expand our sense of medial negation across a field of postconceptual practice broader than that repre­sented solely by the bibliobjet itself, these painted books, and hence these bookless im­ages, orbit the very core of the issue. For the art of demediation indicates more than demediated art objects. It names, as noted, the transitive process of subtracted mediality taking place within any new objectification, including any new mediated representation.

Rakuzin's paintings aren't demediated— his library is. As bookshelf representations, they are pictures. As paintings of books of photographed paintings, however, they replay an initial demediation whereby the original canvases of the Masters are trans­ferred to photo-print in plates and jacket il­lustrations. They do so by returning these same images—through the remediation of new paint—to "mere" portraits of those same books. In this regress of "repetition" (our adjusted sense of Bergsonian seriality when crossing between commercial object and its strictly artifactual replica), these two-dimensional book-works can also bring a smile of recognition to the spectacle of their elided content. In the end, what better access to the tradition—how better to sam­ple the archive of its accomplishment—than through the eye and hand of its present-day avatar? Furthermore, the proximity of Rakuzin's draftsmanship to the conceptual field of book sculpture is glimpsed in a flash if one imagines any one of the painted vol­umes in an appropriated 3-D instance: a real art book open to facing photo plates that have been aggressively painted over in min­iature detail by new brushwork.

Manifestly, the art of demediation, as art, always has its own medium. Even found and singed books nailed together in the shape of a crucifix have a medium, or a mixed one, cellulose and ash and iron. Demediation, again, doesn't refer to some posited denial of mediality. It is a transformational ges­ture, describing the changes art of this sort works rather than what it works in, or what it consists in doing rather than the materi­als (or their absence) it consists of. Deme­diation names the way art in one mode or medium can isolate the found or simulated instance of another medium and evacuate it of its rendered means—and hence, at times, of its intended meaning in transmission. All art requires a mediating form. The active art of demediation, always to some degree con­ceptualist in this regard, is, as we've seen, to peel back a layer or two of this inevitability to recover its ground—or groundlessness.

That's what demediation means. It dis­solves the original in the oblique copy, the optical allusion. Rather than renewing the medial function in the mode of the illusory, let alone the illustrative, such work cites it under suspension or erasure. If Rakuzin, as we've seen, were simply reduplicating the art-book reproduction by an oil treatment, he would in a sense be sustaining its merely illustrative function on or between the covers of a curatorial or critical survey, citing the already-published image for wall-hung notice, quoting it. And in doing the same with books of repainted photographs that are sometimes his subjects, he would be a photorealist en abyme, rather than full-frame. He is neither. Painting paintings, even while making them, is what he does. But as if to keep the distinction potent, sometimes Rakuzin seems to be edging in that other di­rection of late, especially in his recent color drawings and oils of open books contain­ing reprinted black-and-white—sometimes color—photographs, now of Moscow, now of Tel Aviv. Yet always provisional, these "reprints." Always with a proviso. Even in such rendered photo albums, Rakuzin isn't repicturing the mechanically transcribed realism of the documentary photo so much as subtracting its instantaneity and exacti­tude by the inferred duration of a softening brushwork. Again the obverse face of hyper-realist irony.

Same, more commonly in his work, with those open books of rephotographed paint­ings. It is there that he derealizes the authenticating museum photograph into a new image altogether, the re-enlarged easel-scale double of an offprint duplicate. He unpaints the copy. This is not a mystified double ne­gation, of course, where the copy of a copy amounts to the original. But it does aspire to an original nonetheless. At the very least, his images resist the uninvested circulation of the imprint, where mimesis is reduced to sheer dissemination. They don't remediate this service by their copying. Rather, they demedíate its strictly documentary rather than aesthetic force. Transmission is re­placed at brush point by new immanence.

The work in question is there before us. This one—not the image of that one. That's the way to make a painting, Rakuzin seems to suggest: to take up its inspirations from within.

Rakuzin enters art history from the rep­resentation of its archive, whereas another contemporary artist, Jordan Kantor, enters it from the science of attribution and pres­ervation. Imagine an illustrated monograph called Manet's Mirror, featuring on its cover his famous A Bar at the Folies-Bergère (1882), the waitress reflected in the huge mirror be­hind, the volume itself tilted toward us in. With Rakuzin and Sparagana at the far ends of contemporary technique (library still lifes versus tampered-with actual pages), the instrumental fixity of the image is none­theless in each case schematic, formal, ab­stracted—even when radically hands-on in the case of Sparagana's fingered surfaces. By contrast, book-works, cohabiting with us in the same three-dimensional display space, can seem even more palpable yet in their demediation. There "in the round" before or alongside us, pages of the once or never book answer to a different degree of inutility than their painted or excised versions within a frame. The book-work's canceled reading is immanent to its own form, rather than merely incident to it as a secondary effect either of devoted representation or spoiling manipulation. With an actual book shape in museum space, whether appropriated or simulated, the refused interior has a special force. Its inaccessible pages—pressed closed, carved up, even detonated, but in one way or another "real" in their number and binding-speak more forcefully, because unheld and unopened, to (and of) all they withhold. This is the material testimony we will go on not­ing and cross-examining. For, unreadable in itself, the book-work continues to read read­ing. And it does this even when the books so installed are too big to hold, too impervious to enter, and too forbidding in their alien materiality to imagine legible. Anticipating as I do, in characterizing such an extreme repudiation of textuality, the steel-framed shelvings of Anselm Kiefer's leaden books— to be discussed after our scan of the Tate Learn to Read exhibit—is a way of bringing forward a final image by Rakuzin, from 2007, that ratchets up one notch further into re­flexive conceptual irony his typical demedia­tion of fine art catalogs (plate 9). In this case, his magnified cover serves all the more ob­viously to miniaturize the bulking forms of the sculptor's tombstone-size lead volumes shelved by the score.

In a widespread oddity of standard re­mediation, photographs of Kiefer's vast metallic libraries tend to make the muted, mottled shapes of his annealed tomes look a little like sketched rather than sculpted vol­umes, no doubt by optical association with the shadings of pencil lead (an effect that clearly extends here, in the reproduced cover photograph of Rakuzin's canvas, even to the photographed steel mullions of the vaulted Grand Palais glass ceiling). But as oil master, Rakuzin's further remove from the tonnage of impenetrable lead volumes in his reprise of that exhibition cover has an enhanced the­matic effect. That slate-gray inlaid photo of Kiefer's huge drab spines produces a kind of chromatic lacuna in the green, gold, and blue tones coruscating across Rakuzin's oversize (but now only relatively so) book edges. That gap in tonality inscribes a conceptual regress as well. It is as if the repainted museum photo-print of the Kiefer monoliths has been reduced to the actual (and otherwise invisi­ble) pencil sketches through which the image has already passed in the meticulous stages of Rakuzin's own sketch-to-oil craft. And more. For here is one of Rakuzin's most deci­sive works, as vertiginous as the best of them. In it, on it, we have an art of sculpted books you not only can't peruse but can never even open, rendered in a painted art about books you can likewise neither open nor decipher. But whose originals in Kiefer's work, whether or not conjured by museum discourse and its illustrations, you must learn—in their own thunderous silence—to read.