Artists' Books: Reinventing the Ancient Art
Expanding the definition of both the book and rare book, artists' books are meticulously crafted, often beautiful, and sometimes challenging uses of text and material. This exhibit of artists' books in Special Collections highlights recent additions to the department's rare books holdings while exploring efforts to preserve the craft of book making. University Archivist Amy Allen curated the exhibit.
Artists' books, in this case, refer to books created by artists. Artist books blur the line between books and art. Often the physical form of the book is explored and can reflect the narrative within. The traditional components of books: spines, pages, and text blocks may not even be present. Artist books usually feature some type of handcrafting, which can include handmade paper, letterpress printing, hand carved and printed linocut illustrations, and hand binding. Because of the handcrafting, usually only a small edition is produced. Most of the books seen here are in an addition of 30 to 50. Most artist books contain a Colophon at the end which describes the materials and/or process used to create the book.
As with all books, subject and content are unlimited; however, many are challenging in concept, content or both. Artists' books are not, however, usually the realm of the dispassionate. These books tend toward the provocative, intimate or political. Most address a topic personal to the artist or tell part of the artist's own story. Take a look at a few of the recent works that are now part of the growing assortment of artists' books in Special Collections.