Books On Books Collection – Harriet Bart

Dialogue: Alchemy of the Word (1993)

Dialogue: Alchemy of the Word (1993)
Harriet Bart and Helmut Löhr
French-fold card-covered, double-bound book: H260 x W243 mm, 56 pages. Includes altered book and collage print. Edition of 30, of which this is #12. Acquired from Harriet Bart, 3 June 2022.
Photos: Books On Books Collection.

From the Foreword:

Art is a universal language – drawing together people of all regions, races, ages, and socioeconomic levels. Dolly Fiterman Fine Arts is pleased to premier the work of Harriet Bart and Helmut Lohr. Harriet Bart lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. Helmut Lohr is based in Dusseldorf, Germany but lives for several months of the year in the United States… The French poet Stephane Mallarmé said that everything was made to end up in a book. Sculpture, collage, and photography by artists Harriet Bart and Helmut Lohr explore the alchemy of the word, the iconography of the text, the labyrinth of the book, the book as poetic object. Bart and Lohr met in New York in 1990 when they were presenting their work at the same exhibition. Drawn to each other’s work they began a dialogue about their concepts and philosophies of art and life. The conversations continued as they exchanged visits and ideas in Minneapolis, New York, and Dusseldorf. Dialogue: Alchemy of the Word is a visual presentation of their dialogue.

Befitting this book’s title, the binding is not dos-à-dos but rather vis-à-vis or face to face. When the French fold cover parts left and right, the black binding tape on the left and white on the right appear with the photo of the two artists in discussion over coffee and pastry. The interleaving design enacts a dialogue of pictured artworks and, in doing so, becomes a work of book art itself. How appropriate for Harriet Bart and the late Helmut Löhr, both of whom count artists’ books among their multimedia output.


After the foreword, Harriet Bart has the opening gambit on the verso in white type on a black background. That column in the foreground of Fading Memories/Timeless Truths (1990) almost suggests a chess move …


to which Löhr responds with his Visual Text (1989), black on white. The back and forth continues


An altered-book sculpture from Bart and one of Löhr’s collage prints accompany the deluxe edition.


The sculpture echoes Bart’s Bound History (1992), whose photo appears in the dialogue and is answered by the photo of Löhr’s Book Object (1981).

Detail views of the altered book.

Artifact (2022)

Artifact (2022)
Harriet Bart
Matchbox enclosing black-capped bottle of fragments of gold leaf, paper disks hole-punched from a reference work, resting on shreds from a dictionary and black tissue paper. Box: H40 x W63 x D24 mm. Bottle: H35 x D9 mm. Acquired from the artist, 12 April 2022.
Photos: Books On Books Collection.

Artifact is best understood in the context of the following booklet published for an exhibition at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, 15 December 2010 – 15 February 2011.

Winter Projects (2010)

Winter Projects: 1990 object poems 2010 (2010)
Harriet Bart
Open spine glue binding. H178 x W128, 36 pages. Published by the Walker Art Center Library, Minneapolis, MN. Acquired from the artist, 3 June 2022.
Photos of the work: Books On Books Collection.

From the Foreword:

Every December for the past twenty years, the artist Harriet Bart, creator of the winter projects, has been making and sending multiples. These multiples echo her larger unfinished works. There are similarities, particularly in her use of repurposed materials, felt, shells, gold leaf, texts on paper, cords, and small boxes. These multiples serve as a holiday greeting for sixty or more friends and colleagues … The artist calls these multiples Visual Objects/Poems.

Harriet Bart (2003)

Harriet Bart (n.d.)
Harriet Bart
Rik Sferra, photos
Trifold, spiral bound. H152 x W162 mm, 54 pages. Acquired from the artist, 3 June 2022.
Photos of the work: Books On Books Collection.

Published in conjunction with Bart’s book exhibition at the Driscoll Babcock Gallery in New York, this booklet, printed full color on high gloss paper, divides into three parts: commissions, installations and objects/books. It presents detailed views and spreads of each, but as they are not captioned or dated, this is more a photobook than catalogue. It demonstrates the artist’s breadth from the large-scale to the delicate from Double Ode (1995), a work commissioned by Doubleday Book & Music Clubs, Inc., to Tear Vials (2012), which look like containers for the tears of Elizabeth Bishop’s “Man-Moth“, who, if carefully watched, will hand over his only possession, a tear “cool as from underground springs and pure enough to drink”.

Double Ode (1995) and Tear Vials (2012?).

The Yellow Wall Paper (2018)

The Yellow Wallpaper
Harriet Bart
Print, collage. H245 x W190 mm, single sheet. Acquired from the artist, 4 July 2018.
Photos: Books On Books Collection.

The Yellow Wallpaper captures two other aspects of Bart’s work. The title refers to Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s canonic short-story/novella. Like many artists of the book, Bart often springboards from a literary figure’s work. Here, it is an excerpt from Gilman’s story printed on translucent paper and wax-stamped to one side of a page taken from Charlotte Abrahams’ Wallpaper: A Collection of Modern Prints. The reverse side of the print is painted in cadmium yellow. At the exhibition where the work was displayed, Bart gave it away.

Which brings us to the second aspect of Bart’s work: her curatorial, collaborative activity. With Jon Neuse, she organized the exhibition, entitled “Wallpaper: an altered book experiment” at the Traffic Zone Center for Visual Art Mission, 50 Third Avenue North, Minneapolis, 2 July through 10 August 2018. Each artist exhibiting had been given a copy of Abrahams’ compendium and challenged to generate a work of art. Included were Scott Helmes, Vesna Kittelson, Joyce Lyon, Chip SchillingJody WilliamsKaren WirthSarita Zaleha and, last and out of alphabetical order but not least, Doug Beube, who also photographed Bart’s Double Ode installation in 1995.

Further Reading

Joseph, Laura Wertheim. 2020. Harriet Bart: Abracadabra and Other Forms of Protection. Weisman Art Museum, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis. Distributed by University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.

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