This is strong but quiet work. It blends Eastern and Western traditions of the book arts. It joins the blackletter fonts of the Cistercian monks with the typography of Hermann Zapf. It joins John Cage’s chance-determined selection in the creation of art with a group of physicists’ fascination with the crumpling of paper. It experiments with abstract art and Japanese fore-edge illustration and binding. It offers a meditation on Gilles Deleuze’s The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque through an intricately folded reprinting. The artist’s eclectic appreciation of the work of Sappho, Walt Whitman, St. Francis, Gilles Deleuze, Søren Kierkegaard, Ernst Haeckel, Robert Herrick, Miguel de Unamuno and others finds an impressive unity in this collection.
Rutherford Witthus has worked with books for most of his life, starting in high school as a page in the Denver Public Library, where he was introduced to the world of rare books and fine editions by curator Harry Mooney. His subsequent interest in ancient philosophy led him to the University of Denver, where he received a BA and an MA in Philosophy. He taught there as an instructor during the tumultuous late 1960s and early 1970s. An additional degree in Librarianship and Information Management allowed him entry into the professional library world, where he specialized in archives and manuscripts. After working for a number of years at the Denver Public Library and the University of Colorado at Denver, he finished his career at the University of Connecticut’s Thomas J. Dodd Research Center as Curator of Literary and Natural History Collections.
As a retirement gift to himself, he enrolled in the Book Arts and Printmaking MFA program at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia. His interest in book structures was ignited in classes taught by Hedi Kyle, with whom he independently studied the design of Asian books. Combining his interest in ancient languages and book structures, he is currently working on a series of books of literary fragments.
Over the course of the last decades, Rutherford Witthus has pursued traditional and alternative photography. His images are used primarily in his own book structures, although a few hang in private collections.