January 15th, 2013
We recently received a shipment of books from Printed Matter in New York. We order limited edition graphic novels, artists’ books, and zines from them. I was surprised that we received most of the materials we ordered, because after we submitted the order, we heard that disaster in the form of Hurricane Sandy had struck the non-profit.
Printed Matter is the world’s largest non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of publications made by artists. Founded as a for-profit alternative arts space in 1976 by artists and artworkers, Printed Matter reincorporated in 1978 to become the independent non-profit organization that it is today… Recognized for years as an essential voice in the increasingly diversified art world conversations and debates, Printed Matter is dedicated to the examination and interrogation of the changing role of artists’ publications in the landscape of contemporary art.
Printed Matter’s mission is to foster the appreciation, dissemination, and understanding of artists’ publications, which we define as books or other editioned publications conceived by artists as art works, or, more succinctly, as ‘artwork for the page.’ Printed Matter specializes in publications produced in large, inexpensive editions and therefore does not deal in ‘book arts’ or ‘book objects’ which are often produced in smaller, more expensive editions due to the craft and labor involved in their fabrication. –From the Printed Matter website.
Printed Matter maintains a public reading room, a wholesale and retail distribution center, and gallery space. They publish, host book readings, and lectures. They participate in larger book events as well. Their participation in educational outreach has been a vital part of the definition and awareness of Artists’ books.
The other day, NPR reported on the over $200,000 worth of damage that occurred during Hurricane Sandy. The Chelsea store was flooded and about 9000 books were destroyed. Volunteers came from all over to help out and managed to salvage a number of boxes of wet materials. With the aid of a grant, these were sent to a restoration company called Polygon, where the materials were freeze dried to remove the water. Printed Matter will need to find new storage space that is not in a basement and a benefit auction is planned for the spring. You can listen to the broadcast or read a transcript of the story.
September 18th, 2012
The other day, I received an email from a blogger at a website that offers information on online educational resources, the Online Education Database. They let me know that they really enjoyed my blog! I was very pleased, because I always wonder who reads it and whether the information is useful. The email included a post they created on the 20 Most Impressive University Special Collections.
It is worth looking at to see what some of the premier Special Collections have to offer. For example, Trinity College in Dublin houses the original Book of Kells, and Oberlin College has a huge collection of music. Not surprisingly, Yale and Harvard are on the list as well, with their broad collections that have been hundreds of years in the making. They also include the Jazz Archives at Tulane, which not only houses music, but also, the devices to play it on. The Comic Arts Collection at Virginia Commonwealth is included, as well. There are some I would add to the list, including the Popular Culture collections at Michigan State University and Ohio State. And quite a few colleges and universities have very large collections of Artists’ Books, including our own SCAD Atlanta’s ACA Library.
Well, we may not have collections that make the top 20, but we are the only college or university to have the huge archive of an animation studio, the Don Bluth Collection of Animation. We have a rapidly growing collection of Artists’ Books. We collect Graphic non-fiction and limited edition graphic novels. We have a little of everything in the rare book world. We are very proud of our excellent Special Collections here at the Jen Library and love to share it!
July 23rd, 2012
Often, when we think of Artists’ books, we think of a book that is beautifully made and a pleasure to touch. But, Artists’ books can also be a venue that allows artists take on challenging issues and present them in a way that that is eye-catching and provocative. The book’s format draws the reader in and then the images or text allow the story or stories to unfold. Sometimes the stories alert the reader to an issue that he or she was only peripherally aware of. Sometimes the stories are so compelling that they have to be read, but afterward, the reader may wish she didn’t know those stories. She may wish she didn’t have to know how war does horrible things to good people. The library recently purchased such a book: Crossing the Tigris. It is an artists’ book that is a collaboration by three artists: Caren Heft, Jeffrey Morin & Brian Borchardt and three presses in Stevens Point, Wisconsin: Arcadian Press, sailorBOYpress, and Seven Hills Press.
One of the artists, Jeff Morin, describes it this way: “A narrative in three books recounting soldier’s stories from the Iraq War. This is a collaborative project between Jeffrey Morin, Caren Heft, and Brian Borchardt. The collaborators each found stories in the media that recount horrific situations that are inconceivable to those who work regularly with current or former soldiers who happen to be students or artists.”
A statement by the presses about the book: “The container for this collaboration is meant to embody the conundrum of this person who transforms into a beast capable of horrendous acts against innocents. The outside of the container is collaged in the same way that a boy might decorate his hiding place for treasures found. The elements, like currency, targets, or stamps, are in the realm of childhood values. The inside of the container sets the stage for juvenile battle. These are the props for pretend war. When confronted with the grittiness of war, do these ill-prepared young men simply break with realty? Are they taught that they are above the law? Or do they learn to devalue what is not obviously American? Neither the container nor the three books answer the questions posed above. We all know young soldiers who have served or those who could serve. This collaboration is intended to catalyze a conversation about the nature of change that allows potentially decent people to commit indecent acts.”
If you want to see more, or want to study the text, the artists have provided images of every page of all 3 volumes on the sailorBOYpress site. The 3 volume book was published in 2011 in an edition of 60. Jen Library’s Special Collections copy is number 27. Each 36 page book is letterpress printed with collage elements and inclusions. The books utilize handmade paper and hand sewn bindings and are presented in a four sided drop letter fold box, tied with twine.
June 7th, 2012
A couple of years ago, we ordered an interesting artists’ book by a cooperative of Mayan men and women in Chiapas, Mexico, called The Portable Mayan Altar. In a box shaped like a Mayan thatched roof hut with its blend of art, poetry, magic, and culture, it was an instant hit. The vendor’s information mentioned that the cooperative was called Taller Leñateros, and it was founded by Ambar Past. A little research on the internet helped us to find that Ambar Past was an American who went to Mexico as a teacher of natural dye techniques for the National Indian Institute. She traveled to remote areas, eventually making her home in San Cristóbal de Las Casas in the highlands of Chiapas. There she founded a graphic arts collective, Taller Leñateros, which makes paper and books.
Part of her work for the past 30 years has been collecting, recording, and translating Tzotsil poetry and music, and collaborating on bilingual anthologies published by Taller Leñateros. The collective recycles a variety of materials to make handmade paper, some of which is sculpted into various sculptural shapes as book covers. They also silk-screen the illustrations for the books, then print and bind the books.
We decided to further explore the publications of this seemingly unlikely publisher of artists books and recently purchased two more. Here is a little about each of them:
Incantations by Mayan Women, Fathermothers of the Book: Ámbar Past with Xun Okotz and Xpetra Ernándes.
OVER A HUNDRED AND FIFTY PEOPLE COLLABORATED to write, illustrate, and create this book, among them singers, seers, witchwives, washer women, sugar beer brewers, conjurers, native bearers, prayer makers, soothsayers, sorceresses, dyers, diviners, hired mourners, spinners, shepherdesses, babysitters, millers, maids, bookbinders, spellbinders, cornharvesters, great-grandmothers, sharecroppers, necromancers, exorcists, coffee pickers, potters, crazy women, midwives, planters, woodlanders, bonesetters, troublemakers, spiritualists, mothers-in-law, peddlers, gravediggers, fireworks makers, drinkers, hags, beggars, bakers, basket weavers, shamanesses, liars, computers, comagres, sculptresses, muses, and even men. We have made this book “as we make our children,” in the words of Petú Xantis, “with the strength of our flesh and the birds of our heart.
From “Notes on the Creators” essay in the book. The three-dimensional cover is modeled after the face of Kaxail, Mayan goddess of the wilderness, and made of recycled cardboard mixed with corn silk and coffee. The book itself is in several parts. The incantations are in English and in Tzotzil. There are over 70 pages of original silkscreen illustrations by Mayan painters and it is estimated that the book took 30 years to create.
Portable Mayan altar: pocket books of Mayan spells, translation from Tzotzil to English by Ámbar Past.
A box shaped like a traditional Mayan house, holds the altar and its accessories: candles, candleholders, incense and burner, and three books. The books, Hex to Kill the Unfaithful Man, Mayan Love Charms, and Magic for a Long Life, are excerpted from Incantations by Mayan Women.
The books, small and bound in paper covered boards, have beautifully marbled end leaves and silk screened illustrations. The spells and charms are in both English and Tzotzil. Each book has a ribbon bookmark attached to aid in finding your favorite spell, like the spell to keep the dog from barking at your boyfriend.
Bolom Chon, [translation and texts in English, Ámbar Past with Sara Miranda and Tom Slingsby ; texts in Tzotzil Maya [by] Maria Tzu, Rominka Vet and Maruch Méndes Péres].
This vibrant book about the jaguar is marketed as a children’s book, but it is really for anyone. The text in both English and Tzotzil, is inspired by the song, Bolom Chon, about a magical creature. It has original silkscreened illustrations by Mayan artists and a jaguar with maguey fiber whiskers pop-up centerfold. Included is a CD recording of Tzotzil children singing with their grandmother. The cover, printed on an 1895 era letterpress, is made from recycled cardboard mixed with coffee. According to the Taller Leñateros: “The cover was stepped on by the Bolom Chon so its footprints remained as a testimony of its passing through the world.” It comes housed in a colorful jaguar case.
May 23rd, 2012
We received a number of new books artists’ books in Special Collections this spring. Several of these deal with events in the Middle East. Among them are 5 books by 4 artists whose books were made in response to a project by the Al-Mutanabbi Street Coalition. The project asked artists create books that would commemorate the loss of life and culture on March 5, 2007 on Al-Mutanabbi Street. On that day in Baghdad, a car bomb exploded on the street heavily populated by booksellers, killing 30 people, injuring 100, and propelling the contents of the book stalls, stationers, cafes, and tobacco shops into a chaotic whirl. The winding street, named after the famed 10th Century classical Arab poet, Al- Mutanabbi, has been heart and soul of the Baghdad literary and intellectual community. The Al-Mutanabbi Street Coalition issued a call to book artists to work on a project to “re-assemble” some of the “inventory” of the reading material that was lost. Each Book Artist entering the project was asked to complete and donate three books (or other paper material) in the course of a year, ending in 2012. The books were to contain of both memory and future of what was lost. They were to reflect the strength and fragility of books, and also speak to the endurance of the ideas within them.
This call to book artists commenced on September 1st, 2010 and ran until September 1st, 2011. Book artists have one year from the date they respond to the call to complete their work of three books. Some of the books will not be finished until September of 2012. One complete set of the books will be donated to the Iraq National Library. The other two sets will be used in conjunction with shows of the broadsides as well as in shows of their own to raise funds for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).
The books at the Jen Library’s Special Collections include:
Not a Straight Line By Emily Martin, Iowa City, Iowa: Naughty Dog Press, 2011. Edition of 20.
“To read Not a Straight Line viewers must find their way along the linked books that turn this way and that, much as a meandering street would.”
Al Mutanabbi Street, March 5, 2007 By Art Hazelwood, San Francisco: Eastside Editions, 2011. Edition of 16.
“My book, starts with an image of the booksellers street. The next page begins a foldout which begins with the explosion in a death head cloud. Books flying are labeled with different bookseller areas of the world.”
Project Al-Mutanabbi Street, By Christine Kermaire, Charleroi, Belgium, 2011-2012
Series of three books:
Phase 1, Resilience of Al-Mutanabbi Street , edition of 300.
Artists statement “ …Any sound philosophy is mortally-stricken…” ( Immanuel Kant, Philosopher 1724-1804) With this sentence, Kant attempts to demonstrate that a sound philosophy must evolve, and not to persist into assertions. My goal was to (make) translate a philosopher “ banned “ in certain countries.
Phase 2, Memory of Al-Mutanabbi Street , edition of 300.
Names of people who were killed in the car bombing, inscribed around a endless screw and pulled by a red thread, vital lead. The graphics were inspired by the lintels of wood carving (“ham yo“) placed at the front of the houses to protect against “the wrong spirits” (Asia).
Phase 3, Future of Al-Mutanabbi Street, not yet published
Fractured Landscapes By Karen Kunc, Avoca, Nebraska: Blue Heron Press , 2011. Edition of 25.
Artists statement: “Various worn handset types are paired with excerpts from admired authors….The seeds of this book began four years ago in residency in NYC and continued slowly in Avoca, Nebraska.”
From the colophon: “In Memoriam, to those lost in disasters and tragedies everyday, everywhere. And to those left behind. Ever changed.”
April 27th, 2012
You may have seen some of Brian Dettmer’s work on the internet. He does amazing things with books. He cuts, carves, bends, folds, rolls, and glues books into new sculptural, unimagined shapes. He alters books such as dated reference books to intricately carved statements, providing a look into the book beyond what we normally see.
Recently, the Jen Library purchased one of Dettmer’s altered books, titled Geomorphology. According to Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged (found online), Geomorphology is the branch of geology that is concerned with the structure, origin, and development of the topographical features of the earth’s surface.
Brian Dettmer was born in 1974 and raised in Naperville, Illinois. He earned a BA in fine arts from Columbia College Chicago in 1997. Following graduation, he worked as and artist and and graphic designer in the Chicago area. In 2006, Dettmer moved with his wife to establish a studio in Atlanta. Design Boom took a look at his studio in 2009.
Explanation of Process
In this work I begin with an existing book and seal its edges, creating an enclosed vessel full of unearthed potential. I cut into the surface of the book and dissect through it from the front. I work with knives, tweezers and surgical tools to carve one page at a time, exposing each layer while cutting around ideas and images of interest. Nothing inside the books is relocated or implanted, only removed. Images and ideas are revealed to expose alternate histories and memories. My work is a collaboration with the existing material and its past creators and the completed pieces expose new relationships of the book’s internal elements exactly where they have been since their original conception. (Source)
For a look at more of Dettmer’s work, please visit his website.
April 3rd, 2012
Its time for the Jen Library’s Spring Open House. This year we are targeting the School of Communication Arts. It is a hands-on experience for students, professors, and staff to explore our amazing collections! We will be displaying periodicals and books, digital images, databases, and the DVD circulating collection. Special Collections will participate with artists’ books, some of our graphic fiction and non-fiction, and other rare and unique materials. We will also get out some of the fabulous artwork from the Don Bluth Collection of Animation. Students will be able to play trivia, win prizes, and find inspiration in a totally fun way. Also, you will be able to tell us if there are materials you want to suggest for our collection.
Everything happens on the 3rd floor on Wednesday, April 11, from 3 to 7 PM. Even if you are not in the School of Communications, you are welcome to come!
January 29th, 2012
Recently we received some artists’ books from one of our favorite vendors, 23 Sandy Galleries. They are a gallery in Portland Oregon that holds juried exhibitions in a variety of media including the book arts. Fortunately for us, they also sell many of the books in the exhibitions. We love to get their catalog in the mail or go to their website. It is always exciting to see what is going on in the book arts world!
Here are some of our recent purchases from 23 Sandy Galleries:
The Story of Flying Robert: from the Struwwelpeter by Marianne R. Petit is part of her The Struwwelpeter Series, a collection of stories by German author Henrich Hoffman. Each story demonstrates for children “the disastrous consequences of misbehavior.” Flying Robert is a flag format book; the format really accentuates the folly of going out in a blustery storm.
India by Julie Shaw Lutts is a beautiful accordion folded book in a vintage box. The book is collage of the artists photographs and text using an encaustic technique and found objects. It is a unique book. The artists has been describes as a “visual anthropologist”, exploring “layers of memory, identity, and personal histories through thoughtful visual narratives.”
Horse Power by Jessica Spring, was published in three different formats. The book explores words and phrases to reveal their horse related origins. It was also published in a one of a kind format with a 20 inch plastic model horse. We got the smallest one that came without a horse.
There Goes the Neighborhood by Elsi Vassdal Ellis is a book with multiple books inside. The artist used techniques such as collage, pop-ups, and various printing methods to create a book that was not only visually engaging, but with a substantive message. Each page opens to a vignette of another neighborhood in decline as far as biodiversity, environmental degradation, and quality of life. Included in each vignette is a small book with an essay on the subject. The artist has been creating artists’ books with strong political messages on war and genocide since 1999.
January 6th, 2012
We love Alphabet books! They come in such a vast array of subject matters and formats. The Alphabet book got its start teaching children their ABCs while providing cute and memorable examples of words beginning with each letter. Often, there are engaging pictures or cute rhymes. We have a small display of some of our favorites Alphabet books out in Special Collections. Our small exhibit contains mostly artists’ books, with a few pop-up books and one or two others. Most of our books are not really written for children, but are just taking advantage of the genre to make a beautiful or interesting book. Come in and take a look. Here is a preview of a few titles:
The White Alphabet, by Ronald King at the Circle Press, is one of the most intricately crafted of our books. It is a double-sided concertina alphabet book, without text. Each fold opens up to reveal a pop-up letter, exquisitely crafted of RWS hand-made paper and sandwiched between inlaid wooden boards.
The Gorey Alphabet by Edward Gorey is an entire alphabet of terrible occupations and pastimes, such as Fetishist or Xenophobe. There is nothing like Gorey’s macabre sense of humor. No cute and cuddly animal friends or bright colorful illustrations grace these pages. This is an alphabet book for only the most fearless of children, and of course, all who appreciate such things.
Michael Roberts is an artist for The New Yorker magazine, a photographer, filmmaker, and fashion writer. His Jungle ABC is a colorful, beautifully conceived, collaged alphabet book using imagery from Africa. Perhaps the average child might not appreciate the beauty of this world as much as the adults, but we love the vibrant energy of this alphabet. With its exotic words to learn and fascinating images to decipher, it is definitely an entertaining book. The book is forwarded by model, Iman, who talks about inspiration found in the mystery and power of the jungle.
ABC–3D, by Marion Bataille, is another pop-up book that won awards for being the best children’s book of the year. It has a lenticular cover that changes letters as you shift the book. The color scheme is graphically interesting in red, white, and black. The book does more than just pop-up. Some of the pages have movement, such as the pinwheel S. Robert Sabuda called it “One of the most delightful and innovative pop-up books I have ever seen.”
A Tool Alphabet, by Laura Davidson is an artists’ book we like a lot. Beautiful printed tools and letters are on each page. The book is offset printed, with an embossed cover and held together with copper grommets. Some of the tools are not ones I recognize, but then, my experience with hardware may be somewhat limited.
October 17th, 2011
The Codex Seriphinianus has been called the strangest book in the world. It is by Luigi Serafini, and was originally published in 1981 by Franco Maria Ricci, who has dedicated himself to publishing unique, limited edition books by independent artists. Luigi Serafini is an Italian architect and graphic designer. Born in Rome in 1949, he has created scenery, lighting, and set designs, illustrated books, sculptures, and taught graphic design.
The book itself is an encyclopedia of an unknown world. It is written, presumably, in the language of that world, which looks completely alien, yet somewhat familiar. You get the feeling it that if you just looked a little differently, you might decipher some meaning. The illustrations are even more perplexing, filled with familiar elements, but arranged in unfamiliar ways.
The book is arranged into chapters, each dealing with a different element of this very strange world. Some of these include flora and fauna, which have characteristics we know, but they behave in ways we have never seen. The science is explained by truly alien math. The machines seem to have functions outside our ability to guess. Apparently, your sink can fill up quickly with fish. The clothes are very interesting, some more like armor. There is a very interesting deck of cards. My favorite section is the architecture. Parts of this world appear very watery.
If you Google the Codex Seraphinianus, you will find that it is a highly discussed publication. There is a lot of speculation on what it means. Several sites talk about translating the book, referring to subtle and not so subtle keys to the meaning in the book. Serafini, speaking bfore the Oxford University Society of Bibliophiles on May 12, 2009, stated that there is no meaning behind the script he used, that his writing was asemic, which means the writing has no specific semantic content. The interpretation is entirely up to the reader. You can come in to the library to see the book or view it completely on line. There are several sites that host it, here is one: CodexSeraphinianus
If you want to read a little more about the book or perhaps, purchase your own copy, there is a great article with images and a short video at the Abe Books site.