ince the 15th century, artists have partnered with writers and book binders to create beautifully illustrated books. The earliest European tomes were devotionals, enriched by illuminated letters and hand-colored woodblock prints. Reading matter diversified after Johann Gutenberg invented typography and the printing press in the 1450s. As the publishing industry grew, the connection between the author, illustrator and publisher fragmented. In contrast, artist's books, which emerged in the late 20th century, are characterized by their collaborative methodology, handmade qualities, and small editions. Book artists conceive of their publication as a whole, with contributors working together on a common vision.
The books in this exhibition examine the techniques of folding, cutting, and binding, as well as how paper selection and construction contribute to a publication where all parts are integrated. Within the cases are works that challenge our very definition of a book, such as Amy Pirkle's cigarette–shaped Smoke and books that expand our definition of art, such as Kristin Merola's Binder. There are volumes that spring from the artist's most personal experiences, unique publications and illustrated books that bring new perspectives to classic titles. While this exhibition may leave you with more questions than answers, we hope that these ingenious volumes encourage you to re-evaluate the way you define both art and books.
Many book artists draw from their own experiences for content. In their books, Ellen Knudson relies on swimming to remain centered; Terry Schupbach-Gordon imagines the limitations of her physical form freed by water; and Bridget Elmer reorders her father’s brain scans to give her hope for a better outcome.
Challenging the general concept of what makes up a book, these artists push the boundaries of our imaginations and ask more of the reader than to just read the words. Each creation tells a story that invites the reader to interact with the object through their format as well as their content.
Stories that have become classics in literature take on a new life under the enterprise of these talented artists. The addition of compelling illustrations to these classics underscores the importance of the characters, such as the Wicked Witch of the West, and can evoke powerful emotions as in William Blake's Jerusalem.
Artists' books are varied and creative by their very nature. These one-of-a-kind creations engender a striking visual presence while at the same time conveying their story to us in distinctive ways. Whether their books are sculptural, organic or traditional in format, these artists take their craft to new heights, pushing book arts into new realms.
These artists have recorded their's and other's experiences as a way of preserving the moment using non-traditional formats. Through the use of post cards, sound files, and photographs these artists document life's celebrations and tragedies, creating an archive which gives the reader a sense of what it was like to experience it for themselves.
Since Filippo Brunelleschi demonstrated geometric perspective in 1413, artists have used techniques to make viewers feel they are part of the picture. Renaissance artists foreshortened their subjects while contemporary artists pushed the line between painting and sculpture to enhance the immediacy of the work. The artists whose works are in this case use techniques of folding and collage to drive their message beyond the surface of the support, encouraging us to become part of the narrative.
Artists: Hayden Carruth/Claire Van Vliet/Kathryn Clark/Howard Clark/Jim Bricknell, Claire Van Vliet/Audrey Holden/Margaret Kaufman, William Blake/Linda Anne Landers, Suzanne Sawyer, Saint Hildegard/Claire Van Vliet/Katie MacGregor/Audrey Holden / Judi Conant / Mary Richardson/Robert Mealy/Na’ama Lion/Anima, W.R. Johnson/Claire Van Vliet/Linda Wary, Langston Hughes/Stephen J. Sidelinger, Barbara Luck/Lois Johnson/Stephanie Westnedge/Audrey Holden/Claire Van Vliet
Careful examination of the parts of an artist’s book will show the artist’s thought and skill in creating the work. Does each element of the structure, from the materials used, to the techniques of printing and binding, elucidate the artist’s aesthetic concept? The best books integrate all aspects of the production, creating what Johanna Drucker describes as an “auratic quality, an often inexplicable air of power, attraction, or uniqueness.”
Artists: Amy Pirkle, Michael Peven, Deb Rindl, Denise Bookwalter/Frank Giampietro, James Schuyler/Claire Van Vliet, Ellen Knudson, Sonja Greentree Rossow, Sharon A. Sharp, Helen Hiebert/Claudia Cohen, Susan Johanknecht, Ke Francis/Larry Cooper