Contemporary artists’ books for display in the HarperCollins lobby
David Lee, the curator, said of this exhibition: “The medium of the artist’s book has grown within the past thirty years so that a definition given within the parameters of binding the printing is not sufficient to cover all of the issues addressed by artist who use the book form. As with the fine art print medium, book arts have benefited greatly from technology which makes an endless range of choices of form, color and texture possible, and relatively accessible. Adding to its present diversity is a new understanding of the book form contributed by sculptors, painters, and conceptual artists. As cross-disciplinary activities increased during the sixties and seventies, many artists found in book an excellent means to describe those aspects of a sequential, temporal, and collaborative nature in their work.
With the denomination of the artist’s book came the identification of a movement, corresponding refences to its status in circles of commerce and exhibition, and assessments of its general well-being. Variations in form within the medium were delineated and discussed. But recently many of those variation have become blurred that a movement as such is hard to pinpoint. One is inclined to say that rather than book artists, there are artists who use the device of a book in the same way that they use photography or abstract painting that have become devices or means of expression rather than solely expressions in themselves.
This show examines some of the primary concerns of artists who employ this device of a book; within the larger context of art, what a book means to them. In this sense it is important to recognize that, if not in economic or procedural terms, certainly in conceptual orientation, they participate n the communications industry. It is an ambiguous relationship of love for its wonderfully variegated history and iconography as well as its important function in the dissemination of information, and disdain for that very ubiquitousness that trends to level and commodify experience.
This exhibit is not intended to review an entire spectrum, but to cover some of the grounds of interaction between artists and books. A book functions as a metaphor for all of the kinds of things that societies have relegated to its keeping. It signifies structure and order more forcefully than nearly any other artifact. In the familiar Ray Bradbury story, Fahrenheit 451, all existing books are burned. It is a serious fable with an ending that finds the hero in an encampment of people dedicated to the preservation of stories by memory. Each person, in effect, becomes a book. The hope is that here will be the germination of a better society, one that recognizes the real power is with the people who make the books, not in the books themselves. This is the essence of an artist’s book. It is simply an agreement between a story and its teller.”
Support for the Center for Book Arts’ visual arts programming is provided, in part, by the New York State Council on the Arts, with the support of Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.