Pictured above is the back cover of dongghab, a sort of self-portrait in book art in that its content derives from events occurring in 1963, the year of the artist’s birth. The back cover is not just “another conversation” with Ed Ruscha, but one with American culture, as is the book as a whole.
Why do some books of photography lodge themselves in our minds as book art or artist’s books? Ed Ruscha’s books have done that, so much so that it seems almost odd to call them photobooks, although their deadpan presentation as such is essential to their artistic status. Why do works like Sean Kernan’s The Secret Books and Abelardo Morell’s A Book of Books defy relegation to the coffee table?
In juxtaposing his photos with text from John Lloyd Stephens, the 19th century explorer of Mesoamerica, Charles Agel positions Monuments to the Industrial Revolution (1998) as more than a book of photos. Quite a different conceptualizing strategy from the typologizing pursued from the 1970s onward by Bernd and Hilla Becher, mentioned by photographer John Pfahl in his introduction to Monuments.
Seeking the differences and similarities in strategies of composing the works as well as those of composing the photos adds to the appreciation and understanding of them.
Containing over 700 items, the Arnolfini artists’ book collection is one of the largest UK collections of contemporary book art. It leans toward the 1970s and 1980s. The US-based Franklin Furnace Archive Artists Book Bibliography is representative, as are European works such as those of Vito Acconci, Marcel Broodthaers, Stanley Brouwn, Hanne Darboven, Jan Dibbetts, Helen Douglas, Dieter Roth and Telfer Stokes.
The collection is not without later representative works such as those by SooMin Leong, Jonathan Monk and Grayson Perry, but there seem to be no works after 2012. The Arnolfini, Bristol’s center for contemporary art, also hosts the biennial Bristol Artists Book Event.
Josh Hockensmith, curator at the University of North Carolina’s Joseph C. Sloane Art Library, made it possible for me to handle this searing work memorializing the 43 students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ School of Ayotzinapa who disappeared in September 2014 near Iguala, Mexico. The driving rain outside the windows that day compounded the work’s effect.
The hard work of describing Velázquez’s book has been done by Stephen Dingler, rare book cataloger at the University of Texas, Austin, Below is an excerpt of online comments on the 13th copy of the edition of 43.
The use of the number 43 is not restricted to the title in Ms. Velázquez’s work. Forty-three numbered copies of the book were made; the book, constructed in concertina (accordion) style, has 43 unnumbered pages; the numbers from one to 43 are printed across several pages; on one page the number 43 is produced in braille. There is little text but the book artist’s use of photographs showing demonstrations and rallies, as well as portrait photographs of the 43 missing, convey a sense of outrage and a demand for justice. The book’s pages are colored black, with most splashed or streaked with red paint, which further conveys a sense of horror and tragedy at what happened.
Stephen Dingler, “The Significance of Numbers”, The Top Shelf, 15 August 2016. Accessed 7 September 2018.
Even with more than 100 people arrested in relation to the case and a key suspect in custody in March 2018, the facts remained unknown. The 43 would have graduated in July 2018. Mexico’s new president Andrés Manuel López Obrador has committed to launching an independent commission on 1 December 2018 to to re-open the investigation in compliance with a federal court ruling.
An ongoing chance-based publication project in the spirit of Ed Ruscha. Images are randomly-selected Google streetviews (which are often captured at noon to avoid shadowing) of cities like Paris, Tokyo, etc. The copy is compiled from all tweets containing the phrase “this is where” between noon and 12:15pm local time for each city. Consequently the text and imagery for each 15-minute issue originates from the same, albeit ambiguous, time and place. And though text and image are randomly paired, surprising narratives often emerge. Included in the collection of the Library of the Printed Web.
This is where is where the tradition of Ed Ruscha meets the Web. Go there and see for yourself.
A search of Lafayette College’s Artists’ Books Collection on the genre yields 1284 entries, including works by Alicia Bailey, Julie Chen, Maureen Cummins, Steven Daiber, Karen Hanmer, Margaret Kaufman, Clifton Meador, Lois Morrison, Werner Pfeiffer, Gerhard Richter, Maryann Riker, Edward Ruscha, Buzz Spector, Barbara Tetenbaum, Erica Van Horn and Sam Winston.
Check out the archives for the Werner Pfeiffer exhibition.
Worth a visit to the Skillman Library if you’re in Easton, PA.
Harriet Bart and Jon Neuse are curating the intriguing exhibition “Wallpaper”. They invited twelve artists, known for their engagement with the art of the book, to participate in an experiment. The artists were each given a copy of the book Wallpaper: A Collection of Modern Printsby Charlotte Abrahams and tasked with using it, its form and/or content, to deliver an original work.
The result of the Neuse/Barton effort is a mixed media exhibition well worth pondering. Below is a sampling of photos from the exhibition (links lead to the artists’ sites).
As always with book art, there is the self-reflexive, self-referring humor: Jon Neuse’s pun on the book scroll housed in a house-shaped codex in which miniature scrolls of wallpaper are housed and Scott Helmes’ pronunciation-entitled work subtitled with a joke to which the work’s sculpture is the punchline. The exhibition also covers a good variety of the forms book art has taken and may pursue even further in the future: Vesna Kittelson’s carving, Joyce Lyon’s accordion book, Doug Beube’s excavated book (not shown), and Harriet Bart’s painted-book homage to Charlotte Perkins Gilmore’s short story “The Yellow Wall-Paper” and Yu-wen Wu’s digital take on the challenge.
Rotch Library offers a small but growing collection of contemporary artists’ books. The collection focuses on artists’ books published from the 20th century to the present and explores a range of techniques and technologies employed by the books’ creators.
Yellow Submarine? Monty Python? Heath Robinson? Rube Goldberg? Hieronymus Bosch? Albrecht Durer? Quentin Massys? Whatever the influence, David M. Moyer has created choice work under The Red Howler Press. MIT has chosen well.
Errantry, a 27-foot scroll housed in a howitzer shell casing, is inspired by Der Triumphzug Kaiser Maximilians or The Triumphal Procession of the Emperor Maximilian (1515), a series of 130 woodcuts by Hans Burgkmair the Elder (1473-1531) and others, about which Pfeiffer comments: “One of the dominant features in this document is the militant nature of many of the characters depicted, as well as their posture in parading their arms on horse, by carriage or on foot.” The text in Errantry draws from a poem of the same name in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth mythology. The source poem, composed by Bilbo Baggins, describes one of his quest adventures in the usual self-aggrandizing yet self-pitying tone. As a model for Pfeiffer’s text, it makes the digitally printed images of war all the more horrible.
In the hands and mind of Anouk Kruithof, book art is made to sound intimate notes (Automagic, 2016) and grand notes (Enclosed Content Chatting Away in the Colour Invisibility, 2009 ongoing). She has packed so much art, enterprise and life into her life that it is hard to find sufficient time and resource to keep up with her activity. In 2017 and at the turn of 2018, a flurry of commentary arrived to mark her show ¡Aguas! at Foam Fotografiemuseum in Amsterdam. A fortunate effect of social media and the Web is that current news seems to pull retrospective links in its wake.
For Max Van Steen’s perceptive review of AUTOMAGIC (pictured above), click here.
Here are some of the videos and sites featuring Kruithof, her activities and art: