Remember the days when you used to start a story chain, fold the paper over so only a teeny bit was showing and pass it on to a friend, who would then continue it, and pass it on to another friend, until the page was folded in a million places, wrinkled, and full of messy and almost incomprehensible handwriting? Then, someone would read it aloud and you'd find the group had created a story that made almost no sense but still resulted in giggles and tears of laughter. (Or maybe you don't remember, but I am pretty sure in the reader/writer/nerd-world I lived in, that's what we did for fun at slumber parties in between games of M-A-S-H and watching Arachnophobia).
This concept has recently been made into perhaps one of the most interesting art books I have ever seen: The Exquisite Book. Its founding idea is relatively simple. One artist starts a chain of drawings based on a theme. The next artist sees only the work of the artist before him/her, continuing the work along the same horizon line (in his or her own personal style). The result is a book that has 10 chapters made up of works by 10 artists (totaling 100 works of unique art, or 10 works of collective art, depending how you look at it).
The Exquisite Book from ALSO on Vimeo.
What I found made the book particularly interesting (and above and beyond the normal standard of art books), is that each drawing can easily stand alone while also managing to work in tandem without overpowering or confusing one another.
Even when the story doesn't come together in a clear way, by following the established horizon lines set by the artists before, there is a sense of fluidity between each page. This causes the viewer to take a moment to reflect on the scenes and take note of the influences the preceding artworks made on their followers. Two examples of this are this set of three drawings by Arthur Jones, Lena Sjoberg, and Mike Lowry...
Almost remarkably, there are some pairs/sets of drawings that show a clear (and comic) narrative from scene to scene. One of my favorite moments of whimsy was in looking at the artwork done by Esther Pearl Watson (I've always had a thing for garden gnomes):
Then imagine the reaction to how Anders Nilsen took that concept to the next level:
And in this set of three by Mike Bertino, David Heatley, and Jim Stoten, the images work so well together, it is almost impossible to see where one page ends and another begins:Despite the fact the artists were working collectively on a project, individual styles and techniques were not lost. One of my favorites of those that can easily stand-alone is this one by Julia Pott. This is the sort of print one could hang on a bedroom wall to stare at while rocking out to indie pop.And, amidst the general loudness that would be a book devoted to 100 pages of solid artwork, there are breaks of quiet beauty, like the opening page by Katy Horan:Although I'd love to continue to wax poetic on this book creation, the truth is I've already lost hours of my life (and I am okay with that) analyzing and admiring each painstakingly designed page. Overall, The Exquisite Book truly lives up to its name and I highly recommend that if you cannot purchase the entire book to proudly display on your coffee table, at least take a look at the website so you know exactly what sort of treasure you are missing.