Walt Whitman’s Words: Inspiring Artists Today is a catalog published on the occasion of the group exhibition curated by Deirdre Lawrence at Center for Book Arts, October – December 2019. The Center for Book Arts is marking the bi-centennial of Walt Whitman’s birth by looking at how Whitman’s writings have influenced contemporary artists working in the book arts. The exhibition follows several themes Whitman focused on in his writings, providing the connective tissue that links these works together. Geography, history, identity and immigration are a few themes that emerge from the works of art on view. Whitman’s fascination with Ancient Egypt, photography as a branding tool, and his notion of the world as he imagined it are all evident in the art on view. These diverse objects range from books, drawings, photographs, sketches, broadsides and a scroll.
This book was selected as AIGA’s 50 Books 50 Covers of 2019.
Whitman is known today as an American poet, what is less known is his intimate knowledge and influence on the art of bookmaking. From his early days spent apprenticing as a newspaper printer, Whitman was involved in all aspects of bookmaking including writing, choosing the typeface and designing of the entire publication including binding, printing and editing. In his efforts to publish his own works, he oversaw all aspects of the production and often set type himself. Whitman truly experienced what it was like to make books and his hands on work allowed him to discover the anatomy of words and the creation of poetic space. The catalog for the exhibition celebrates Whitman’s involvement with the book as a vehicle for distributing his emerging ideas and reflects his sensibilities in terms of binding, paper, typography, images and overall innovative design.
The artists’ work represented in the catalog follow Whitman’s experiments with printing and his reflections on the world around him especially on the emerging role of democracy in America. While Whitman lived over a century ago, his clusters of poetry and prose created from 1855 to 1892 continue to speak to the condition of the world especially now. His thoughts on democracy and immigration act as moral guardrails especially relevant today.
The catalog highlights the work of artists who use the book format as their artistic medium and create work that reflects Whitman’s influence. Art included ranges from multiples, to limited editions and unique items addressing issues that Whitman wrote about including democracy, gender, immigration, history and observations of the world around us. Drawing inspiration from Whitman’s entire oeuvre, the selected works reproduced in the catalog range from letterpress to digital works including social media. Each work of art is presented with an image along with a description written by the artists. The catalog offers an essay by Deirdre Lawrence, the curator, and an interview with the curator by Corina Reynolds. Overall design is the product of the collaborative work of Corina Reynolds, director of the Center for Book Arts and co-founder of Small Editions, and Roni Gross, letter press artist and teacher and founder of Z’roah press.
The text for the book was set in Jansen, and Trajan, with titling in Normande. Various 19th century typefaces from the collection of Center for Book Arts was used for the quotations from Leaves of Grass. The end sheet is from Walt Whitman’s notebooks, courtesy of the Library of Congress. The catalog was printed and hand bound in New York City.
This catalog — which can be seen as an artists’ book in its own right — offers striking images in color and black and white highlighting the work of 45 artists. Presented in a innovative folded binding, the catalog reflects Whitman’s artistic sensibilities and influence on the book arts
Featured artists: Isabel Baraona, Vanessa Cruz, Sasha Chavchavadze, Allen Crawford, Marianne Dages, Devon Damonte, Brian Dettmer, Teresa Drilling, Daphne Fitzpatrick, Evelyn Eller, Sophie Koko Gate, Anne Gilman, Donald Glaister, Sam Gordon, Sheila Goloborotko, Joan C. Gratz, Barbara Henry, Bridget Henry, Meg Hitchcock, Timothy Hull and Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Sam Ita, Saskia Jetten, Stefan Killen, Richard Kostelanetz, Kathy Kuehn, Karen Kunc, Lisa LaBracio, Sophia Le Fraga, Angela Lorenz, Russell Maret, Barry McCallion, Deanna Morse, Mark McMurray, Susan Newmark, Ilse Schreiber-Noll, Leisa ReFalo, Brian Selznick, Clarissa Sligh, Peter Spagnuolo, Elisabeth Tonnard, Walt Whitman, Rutherford Witthus, Marilyn Zornado.