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Re: Book Art History
As a "baby" book artist, I am grateful for the breadth and passion (and
informativeness) of Richard's post this morning. As a poet and teacher
of poets, I'm all too familiar with people who write but never read.
A few comments and questions.
> Amazing work has been done for thousands of years. Everyone in
> this field--artists, collectors, librarians, curators, writers (critics?),
> dealers-- *needs* to spend at least a hundred days in museums, rare book
> rooms, galleries, auctions, etc. seeing and touching THE REAL THING.
> binders. Handle the incunabula-- the ones in original bindings.
> Particularly with hardware (chains, bosses, clasps). See how the hinges
> work, how nicely they open and close. Feel it.
> have Jean Brown's collection from the Shaker Seed House. Get a hold of a
> few books of William Blake's (not facsimiles). Look at 10,000 "Artist's
> Books" in the Franklin Furnace Archive (now part of the MOMA library). It's
> a beginning. Maybe then one has the possibility of becoming an artist.
> Handle enough great stuff and it begins to rub off on you.
Do you and I live in the same world, Richard? How does one ever get to
*TOUCH* the real thing, except maybe in for-sale galleries and auctions?
If one lives in the "hinterlands" and does not have frequent access, and
the only access at all is the rare museum show, what is one to do? The
one day I recently had in New York, I didn't have time to go to Franklyn
Furnace - but if I had, would they have let me handle anything? Looking
at a book under glass is not a whole lot different from looking at a
> The thing that always grabs me is how much real content the artists
> have to communicate. Seems like a lot more than in painting and sculpture.
Yes, I agree - that's why I've evolved in this direction, from a
beginning in poetry and small press book design.
> But so much of current book art *doesn't* utilise the form or materials in
> any way that either supports the metaphor of the text or comments on the
> book as an evolved iconic medium. Unfortunately a lot of "Artists' Books"
> have visually interesting pages in a boring form
And may I say that some of book artists don't really seem to understand
and value the book as a medium including WORDS??? Book artists need to be
good visual/spatial/temporal artists but the words in their books should
have integrity and skill, too. This is not often discussed, and a some
beginners (and some not-so-beginners) who come to the form from the visual
arts are miserable writers. Words matter in books, too.
> When they do
> create a statement where the whole object--not just the images--is
> involved, that's what I think of as "Book Art." To be "Art" an object has
> to change the way I see the world-- it has to make the space around it
Well said. That's what I want to do, personally - words, images,
format. I feel somewhat handicapped by lack of visual arts training and
lack of a context where people are doing interesting things - and by that
very lack of education, broadly speaking, that you addressed above. And
I can't (at the age of 50 with a more-than-fulltime job and arts life) go
take a year at an art school, even if there were a good program.
I am, though, looking for summer workshops that address these questions
effectively. Suggestions would be welcome, since I'm already thinking
about next summer.
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