About

Book Art Review is a criticism initiative founded at Center for Book Arts in 2020 by Megan N. Liberty, Corina Reynolds, and David Solo. It includes a magazine, workshops, and other community engaged programs that seek to build a better and more expanded landscape of criticism for the book arts.


Magazine

Book Art Review was launched with the aim of promoting and strengthening book art criticism by providing a forum for and recognition of writing that embodies the principles listed here. We believe that these evolving principles represent attributes of strong book art criticism and reflect the criteria we will use for BAR.

  1. We believe that book art and artist books should be as inclusive a category as possible, ranging from traditional codices to digital and other novel and experimental forms and objects.
  2. We must demystify artist books and make them accessible to a wide audience by ensuring that writing about those books uses clear language and adopts well-defined terminology.
  3. We must embrace and support a diverse set of voices and backgrounds among both critics and makers to ensure the way we tell the history of book art reflects our culture’s broad and changing perspectives.
  4. We understand that readings and interpretations of artworks may and will shift over time based on the viewer and changing cultural contexts.  We support these shifting understandings and aim to document the perspectives of our and past times so that future audiences and scholars have a fuller picture of the development of this field.
  5. We believe there is no single model for proper criticism nor a right judgment and emphasize the importance of well-argued and supported assessments, even if they present contradictory views. 
  6. We insist that criticism must express a judgment (and description as needed) and must provide an analysis that supports the judgment based on:
    – Evaluating formal elements including images, text, materials, typography & design, binding structure, and printing method 
    – Considering the time and place of origin 
    – Comparison with other book art 
  7. We believe that criticism should primarily be about the object but may take into account and discuss both the viewers’ and makers’ background and intent.
  8. We encourage critical responses in a wide range of forms, styles, and lengths, from short reviews to essays.

Interested in writing for BAR

Book Art Review publishes two issues per year, with the first issue launching in Spring 2022. We want to raise the bar for book art criticism! Book Art Review is our plan to make book art criticism more visible and more valuable, and to engage with a diverse group of writers and readers. Our launching manifesto calls for “New Book Art Criticism,” and in building that, our magazine will showcase a new kind of writing about artist books, one that focuses on the material, paginated, object qualities of the book. These guidelines are meant to help you shape and write about artist books in that way. But, as with all new things, there will be growing pains. With the help of our editors, we are forging a new path in writing about the underserved book arts; the editorial process may be lengthy, but the reward will be great! All contributors are paid!

Reviews are 800-1000 words and features are 1500-2000 words.


General Pitch Guidelines

Please include:

  • Book details: the artist/author, book title, publisher, and year
  • Images or link to images of the book
  • Why is this a book? How does it work as a book?
  • What is your analysis, interest, or approach to this book?
  • Link to 1-2 previous writing samples/a note on your background or writing experience

Content Guidelines


Artist Book Reviews
  • Reviews should address: Why is this a book? How does it work as a book? What is the historical context of the book form selected (ie accordion book or photobook)?
  • State a clear assessment of the book/object.
  • Any general description of the book should be brief.
  • Identify the decisions/elements made by the artist(s) (e.g. design, images, text, sequencing, materials, typography, format) and how they support the analysis. In particular, any “unusual” elements should be discussed covering how they impact the reading/reader’s experience.
  • Include comparisons with other work by the artist(s) or otherwise related books to offer context and contrast to the elements noted.
  • Offer historical context when needed. Observe significant differences in how the book might have been read at time of publication/creation or by different audiences over time.
  • Provide/select 2-4 images including the cover and the book open to spreads that illustrate analysis. As with the writing, these images should be images of the book and show the “bookness” of the book, not internal images and not spreads from PDFs or digital galleys. Please include required credit and permission guidelines

Book Exhibition Reviews
  • Exhibition reviews should follow the guidelines above for individual analysis of objects in the exhibition.
  • In the case of exhibitions, the article should look at the question/premise underlying the exhibition (and potentially associated catalog) and how well the selection of books develops and interrogates the question and the resulting discourse or judgment.
  • The review should address, How the object decisions support (or perhaps contradict) the exhibition premise? The review may also discuss the presentation of the books (virtual and/or physical) and how well that works in allowing the viewer to engage in the discourse.

Features + Essays
  • Features should follow all the above guidelines when considering individual and groups of books.
  • Features should make an argument about a larger cultural, social, or political topic and illustrate that argument with a selection of books, connecting it with our principles.
  • Features should answer: How do these books show your point? Why are books (and their specific book qualities) the best objects to demonstrate this?

Individuals interested in writing for BAR should reach out at bar@centerforbookarts.org


Support

We are grateful to all of the subscribers, CBA members, and donors who make Book Art Review Possible.  Funding for the research that led to this project was provided in part by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.



BAR Community Standards

The purpose of these standards are to ensure that the various BAR activities–including public events, submissions and comments on print and online material, and announcements of publications or related activities–provide a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere for the constructive discussion of the book arts.

BAR is a space where diverse artists, librarians, scholars, collectors, and anyone with an interest in artists’ books and the wider book art universe is invited to engage in an ongoing dialogue around many topics relevant to our shared passion for this area. Such dialogue can and indeed should include differing opinions and disagreements on matters ranging from if/where to put the apostrophe to how and how well books function so long as it is conducted with civility and respect. We also expect that participants will be open to new or different ideas and perspectives and listen and respond to such expressions openly.

Consequently, we ask that all contributions–in print, online, verbally or visually comply with the following and the editors and moderators of the various activities will enforce these guidelines within the spirit of the BAR initiative.

  • Avoid all forms of harassment, discrimination, abuse or other offensive conduct (when in doubt, be cautious and respectful)
  • Consider that others may have expertise, backgrounds or perspectives of which you are unaware
  • Express and respond to criticism or differences of opinion graciously and constructively
  • Give proper acknowledgement and credit to other work
  • Avoid all personal or ad hominem attacks

Refrain from interruption or otherwise disrupting conversations/events

Inappropriate comments generally can include, but is not limited to, references to individual’s

  • age
  • appearance or body size
  • employment or military status
  • gender identity or expression
  • individual lifestyles
  • marital status
  • national origin, race, and ethnicity
  • physical or cognitive ability or any disability
  • political affiliation
  • sexual orientation
  • religion

Note that these topics may often be addressed within artists’ books where collegial and respectful discussion of their presentation and potential reception is both expected and appropriate.

Manifesto

Books have long been recognized as a key medium for artists. Mallarme wrote in 1895 that, “Everything in the world exists to end up in a book.” That is ever more true in today’s climate as the book form is leveraged to share ideas, perspectives, outrage, protest, humor, and beauty.

Book art production is more prolific now than ever before, yet critical writing about book art and specifically about artist books lags far behind critical writing about other media. Few publications devote space to writing about book arts. Reviews of artist books often consist mostly of descriptions of the book rather than a structured analysis.

We want to raise the bar! Book Art Review is our plan to make book art criticism more visible and more valuable, and to engage with a diverse group of writers and readers. Its main principles are:

  • Defining book art and artist books as broadly as possible, including digital and other novel and experimental forms.
  • Acknowledging that the way we tell the history of book art needs to be expanded, revised, and annotated because of our culture’s changing perspective.
  • Acknowledging that there is no single model for proper criticism, but that critical writing should generally entail thinking about subject; maker; image; text; typography and design; binding structure; printing method; other physical attributes; time and place of origin; and quantity produced.
  • Demystifying artist books and making them more accessible to a wider audience.
  • Encouraging dialogue about book art in as many forms and forums as possible.

Beginning in fall 2021, we will launch Book Art Review with a range of activities including:

  • Open public discussion about what artist book criticism should look like and what the field currently lacks.
  • Producing educational resources and classes for prospective writers.
  • A physical and online journal.
  • A prize for book art criticism.
  • Public outreach and education programs.

If you are a writer with an interest in writing about the book as an art form, we would like to hear from you. Email us at bar@centerforbookarts.org.

Megan N. Liberty, David Solo, and Corina Reynolds


Upcoming Events


Book Art Review, A New Artists Book Criticism

2022-05-01 2:00PM (GMT+2)
Miss Read
Haus der Kulturen der Welt
John-Foster-Dulles-Allee 10
10557 Berlin

Corina Reynolds, Managing Editor of Book Art Review

Artists book criticism in the 21st century must not only address the book as an artistic medium, but also the book’s engagement with a range of cultural histories and publishing traditions. As participation in and approaches to artists’ books and publishing have blossomed in recent years, now is a key time to develop new critical tools for assessing artists’ books and their broader impact on culture and artistic practice. What are the tools we need now and how do we create them?

Join Corina Reynolds, Co-Founder of Book Art Review (BAR) and Executive Director of Center for Book Arts (CBA) for a presentation of lessons learned through BAR’s multi-year criticism initiative and how those led to the release of the new art criticism magazine Book Art Review.


Recent Events


How Is It A Book? Book Art Review and A New Model for Criticism

2022-04-14 6:00PM (GMT-7)
San Francisco Center for the Book
375 Rhode Island Street
San Francisco, CA 94103

Megan N. Liberty, Editor in Chief, Book Art Review

Book Art Review is a criticism initiative from Center for Book Arts, developed over the last two years, to create a platform for critical writing about artists’ books. The projects include workshops, public talks, and a magazine. With the first issue publishing in March 2022 in print and online, this talk will consider the new approaches to book art criticism embodied in the essays and reviews in the first issue. Editor Megan N. Liberty will introduce the theme of the first issue, “A New Manifesto for Book Art Criticism,” and discuss some of the success and challenges of encouraging new writers–new to criticism or new to book art–to answer the question, how is it a book?, one of the founding principles of BAR’s approach to artists’ book criticism.


Writing, Connecting, & Criticism

2022-02-25, 3:00PM (GMT-4)
Multiple Formats
Boston University, School of Visual Arts
808 Commonwealth Avenue
Brookline, MA

Megan N. Liberty, Corina Reynolds, and David Solo

Discussion about the development of Book Art Review with all of its founders. Moderated by Lynne Allen, Professor of Art, Printmaking at Boston University.


Organize, Perform, Disrupt

2022-02-26, 3:00PM (GMT-4)
Multiple Formats
Boston University, School of Visual Arts
808 Commonwealth Avenue
Brookline, MA

Kevin Cadena, Shiraz Gallab, Jinu Hong, Corina Reynolds, Asta Thrastardottir

Discussion about publishing as a tool for change moderated by Crystal Sealey, BFA Candidate in Graphic Design, Boston University.


Read and Write about Artist Books: Approaches to Art Book Criticism

2021-06-15 6:30PM (GMT-4)
Brooklyn Art Book Fair
Miriam Gallery
319 Bedford Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11211

Lee Ann Norman (Brooklyn Rail, Hyperallergic) and Tausif Noor (Book Art Review, New York Times, Artforum)

Discussion with two writers about their approach to art book criticism moderated by Megan N. Liberty.


Criticism and Language

2021-05-21
The Photobook Sessions
Kraszna-Krausz Foundation and Camberwell College of Arts, UAL (virtual event)
Co-organized by David Solo and Duncan Wooldridge

Tanvi Mishra (Pix; Caravan Journal) Christiane
Monarchi (Photomonitor; Hapax)
Eugenie Shinkle (C4 Journal)

Discussion about critical writing in the photobook community organized and moderated by David Solo.


Distribution and Community

2021-05-21
The Photobook Sessions
Kraszna-Krausz Foundation and Camberwell College of Arts, UAL (virtual event)
Co-organized by David Solo and Duncan Wooldridge

Ana Casas Broda (Hydra + Fotografia)
Anne Nwakalor (No! Wahala)
Daria Tuminas (Fotodok)

Discussion about the effects of photobook distribution on community within the field of photography. Chaired by Shoair Mavlian (Photoworks)


Promoting Artists’ Book Criticism and Scholarship through Collaboration: We All Want the Same Thing (But What Is It?)

2021-05-12 1:30PM (GMT-4)
ARLIS/NA 49th Annual Conference
(virtual event)

Corina Reynolds (Center for Book Arts)
Giana Ricci (New York University)
David Solo (Independent Researcher)

Strong, diverse criticism and scholarship are vital for the promotion of the book arts, the creation of new projects, and for making artist books accessible to a wider audience. Artist book criticism does not exist in a vacuum; it is the product of a symbiotic community of book artists, publishers, writers, collectors, enthusiasts, librarians, and scholars. This session will examine three ongoing examples of collaborative efforts aimed at satisfying the multifaceted needs of the diverse book arts community. These include focusing the Contemporary Artist Book Conference (CABC) on these topics, the launch of the Book Art Review initiative with Center for Book Arts (CBA), and the framing of a discovery project with the Bibliographical Society of America. Following short presentations on each of these three initiatives, there will be a discussion among the panelists on the objectives of these endeavors and the central role collaboration plays in achieving them. Moderated by Deirdre Donohue.


Critical Convening on Terminology and Contextualizing Historic Material

2021-02-26 5:00PM (GMT-4)
Contemporary Artist Book Conference
Printed Matter’s Virtual Art Book Fair
(virtual event)

Tiffany Barber, Colette Gaiter, Megan N. Liberty, Kinohi Nishikawa, Corina Reynolds, David Senior, Tate Shaw, Levi Sherman, Vivian Sming, David Solo

For this session, we’re focusing on terminology and contextualizing historic material:

  1. How does inadequate, inconsistent, or unclear terminology limit our ability to write critically about artist’s books? 
  2. How can and should we re/contextualize historical artist’s books? 

After a brief introduction, we invite you to join the founders of BAR and a group of international guests in this convening as we split into small breakout groups to explore these questions and work on developing recommendations. Each breakout group will discuss the same items before returning to the large group to share and combine responses.


Critical Convening on Approaches to Criticism for Activist Material as Artist’s Books and Publishing as Practice

2021-02-27 5:00PM (GMT-4)
Contemporary Artist Book Conference
Printed Matter’s Virtual Art Book Fair
(virtual event)

Maymanah Farhat, Emily Larned, Megan N. Liberty, Mar González Palacios, Corina Reynolds, Kayla Romberger, Levi Sherman, Victor Sira, David Solo

For this session, we will consider critical approaches to activist material as artist’s books and publishing as practice:

  1. Is a different framework needed for artist’s books with activist purposes?
  2. What role does the publisher of an artist’s book play in content creation?
  3. What is needed to write critically about publishing as artistic practice?

After a brief introduction, we invite you to join the founders of BAR and a group of international guests in this convening as we split into small breakout groups to explore these questions and work on developing recommendations. Each breakout group will discuss the same items before returning to the large group to share and combine responses.


Closing Plenary: The Temperature of Artists Book Criticism

2021-02-28 5:00PM (GMT-4)
Contemporary Artist Book Conference
Printed Matter’s Virtual Art Book Fair
(virtual event)

What is the temperature of art book criticism and scholarship today? As the scale of participation in and range of approaches to artists’ books and publishing have blossomed in recent years, now is a key time to develop new critical tools for assessing artists’ books and their broader impact on the cultural and artistic practice. Artists’ book criticism in the 21st century must contend not only with the book as an artistic medium, but also art books’ engagement with a range of cultural histories and publishing traditions.
Unmoderated open forum for discussion.

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