I’ve had a good look at artist’s books this week. This is such a huge category, but it has been fun dipping in and out of it. My book can definitely fit the definition, even if it is first and foremost a “proper” book.
Artists’ books have a long history of being experimental, or objects of art in and of themselves. Books began as individual hand made objects, each unique by default. With the invention of print, they eventually became a mass market product. Artists’ books expand and contract the understanding of what a book is, defying conventions at times or pushing conceptual boundaries.
I looked at several famous artists’ books, everything from a traditional woodcut-printed and hand bound labour of love such as William Morris’ The Kelmscott Press Chaucer edition, to conceptual books such as Textilene by Dan Walsh which is entirely made of plastic mesh and has no wording at all. Guy Debord and Asger Jorn’s Mémoires, isfamous for having a cover made out of sandpaper meant to destroy its shelfmates as it was handled. Dieter Roth created artists’ books meant to putrefy and disintegrate, while others have created beautiful editions that stir entirely different emotions. Sketchbooks, journals and even non-book books all have a place in the artists’ book cosmos.
One of the most exciting things about artist’s books is the ability to truly include mixed media. I wanted to include more in my book, but ran out of time. I’d love to do some collage pieces, and maybe they would reproduce better scanned and printed, like the section on my great grandmother, but I’m really interested in doing a fabric book.
Come to think of it, my final major project on my undergrad all those many years ago was a fabric book! I did papercut illustrations for a counting book and had it digitally printed onto fabric. Sewing is definitely not my strong point!
CASTLEMAN, Riva. 1994. ‘A Century of Artists Books’. MOMA [online]. Available at: https://www.moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/439 [accessed 10 Aug 2022].
CENDRARS, Blaise and Sonia DELAUNAY. 1913. Prose Du Transsibérien et de La Petite Jehanne de France : Poème. Paris: Éditions des Hommes Nouveaux (New Man Editions).
CHAUCER, Geoffrey et al. 2008. The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer Now Newly Imprinted. Cambridge, England: Printed For The Folio Society By Cambridge University Press.
‘Dan Walsh – Artists – Paula Cooper Gallery’. 2022. www.paulacoopergallery.com [online]. Available at: https://www.paulacoopergallery.com/artists/dan-walsh#tab:slideshow [accessed 11 Aug 2022].
HARRINGTON, Peter. 2014. ‘The Kelmscott Press Chaucer(1896)’. victorianweb.org [online]. Available at: https://victorianweb.org/art/design/books/63.html [accessed 10 Aug 2022].
ROTH, Dieter. 1967. Diary Pages [Online image]. Available at: https://www.meer.com/camden-arts-centre/artworks/12966.