“A Love of Letters: Work by William Rueter” Exhibit in Dundas, Ontario

“A Love of Letters: Work by William Rueter” is the current exhibition at the Carnegie Gallery in Dundas, Ontario (February 3 – 26, 2012). Rueter is the proprietor of The Aliquando Press and this exhibition includes some recent books (7) and broadsides (14) from the Press plus 11 works of calligraphy and 5 examples of what I will call book constructions. For someone not up to date with the work of The Aliquando Press, this is an opportunity to see some of it. As this is not a retrospective exhibition, works that are out of print are not displayed. The calligraphy and book constructions are new and unique pieces. Many were quickly snapped up by visitors at the opening reception.

The books are placed in a centre table so that they can be handled. These include Ovieto (2001), The Nuns and the Gardener (2002), The Garden of Love (2003), The Anguish of the Heron (2005) and Taking the Sun for a Walk” (2011). The broadsides are arranged on the three surrounding walls. We have everything from Doc Cheatum on Jazz (1997) to Marcel Proust reminding us that “Every Reader finds himself” (2003) and Julius Rodenberg on the alphabet (2001).

The texts for the calligraphic pieces come from a variety of sources and reflect Rueter’s love of letters. For these pieces, Rueter has used mostly a variety of pens; the papers are either acrylic coloured paper or hand-marbled sheets. The pieces vary in size from about 10 inches by 10 inches to about 18 inches by 30 inches. All but one of the pieces is a single quotation from a single source. There is William Blake (Reader, Lover of Books, Lover of Heaven…), John R. Biggs (A love of letters is the beginning of typographical wisdom…), the Bible (Every scribe that is instructed unto the Kingdom of Heaven…), and anonymous (Nil illegitimus carborundum). The centerpiece is a one of the largest pieces in the show. By my count it has 15 quotations, including one in Arabic script and one in a Chinese script. Rueter has used a variety of letter styles. The different quotations are not placed in a regular fashion but blended together. As sources, I identified only three: Eric Gill, W.A. Dwiggins and Bror Zachrisson. The purchaser and his visitors will have a delightful time identifying the quotations. All these pieces show Rueter’s mastery of calligraphy but this last piece is a tour de force.

The book constructions show Rueter’s playfulness. He gives us a tunnel-book creating Gutenberg’s workshop, a “Bunk Book” that comprises 3 stacked boxes with a book in each. There is also “A Book of Numbers.” This involves a single sheet with numbers on both sides displayed unfolded that can be collapsed and placed into a slipcase for storage. My description makes it sound simpler than it actually is. The highlight in this group is displayed on the notice of the exhibition and is entitled “Love Poems.” Rueter has taken several sheets of paper with brief poems written on each sheet and then woven them through a hand-marbled framework. Both the sheets with the poetry and the framework sheet are secured to themselves giving us a love-knot.

This is exhibition that deserves to be seen rather than read about. Rueter is currently working on what will be the 108th book from The Aliquando Press. The Press has also published 82 broadsides. Given the time in Rueter’s life, and the fact that this is the 50th year of The Aliquando Press, one might expect an exhibition that only looks back. It is thrilling to see an exhibition that shows Rueter charting new directions for himself.

— Chester Gryski