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Re: women/men in book arts
- To: BOOK_ARTS-L@LISTSERV.SYR.EDU
- Subject: Re: women/men in book arts
- From: Richard Minsky <minsky@MINSKY.COM>
- Date: Sun, 2 Jul 2000 17:53:40 -0400
- Message-Id: <200007022153.OAA15900@palimpsest.Stanford.EDU>
- Sender: "Book_Arts-L: READ THE FAQ at http://www.philobiblon.com" <BOOK_ARTS-L@LISTSERV.SYR.EDU>
gwen miller wrote:
>1) I think it is a well known fact that book arts, in all its facets and
>definitions, has experienced considerable growth in the last decade and
>continues to do so. What ideas do you have as to why this is happening?
The roots of the expansion of the book art movement can be traced back over
25 years. The discussion of Book Art History on this listserv goes back to
1995. I'd suggest reviewing the archives with the search function at
The growth to where the field is today results from many factors which came
together in the mid-70's. Artists like Stella Waitzkin, Barton Lidice Benes,
Marty Greenbaum and Dieter Rot were among the primary influences on the
movement. Waitzkin made cast resin books which were entirely sculptural and
wordless. Benes made sculptural books (such as the famous "Censored Book" of
1973 that was tied in rope, nailed shut, gessoed and painted) as well as
rubber stamped books, a "Book of the Dead" made with the ashes of Hans
Schneider, and printed books such as "The Dog Bite" (Plain Wrapper Press).
Greenbaum made collage books, glued open, painted, with pages incorporating
found objects such as bottle caps and cigarette butts. Rot (Roth) altered
existing books, made book objects out of other books, and produced editions
of treated book objects.
Bookbinders were experimenting with structure and form, such as Hedi Kyle's
"April Diary" (a concertina with short pages tipped to opposite sides of the
folds). The new structures have become popular both for unique works and
printed books. Gary Frost integrated medieval structures with contemporary
ideas in his Dada Reliquary binding of "The Tracts of Moses David and The
Children of God". I was exploring material as metaphor in such works as
"Pettigrew's History of Egyptian Mummies," "The Birds of North America," and
"The Crisis of Democracy."
Syl Lebrot made "Pleasure Beach" by creating images in the process of making
color separations which used the grain of the film instead of halftone
screens. Several artists were experimenting with offset printing as a fine
Many artists were making offset or photocopy books, in spiral bindings and
other commercial processes, with the idea of making sequential images
available at low cost.
In 1974 the Center for Book Arts opened, bringing together these various
approaches to book art, as well as the artists and craftspeople, providing
classes and workshops, and exhibiting book art to the public. Printed Matter
was formed to distribute artists' book editions. In 1975 Franklin Furnace
Archive was started to collect artists' books and to present performance
art. That collection is now part of the library of The Museum of Modern Art.
During the late 70's and 80's many regional book art organizations were
created. Artists BookWorks in Chicago, The Pacific Center for Book Arts, the
Minnesota Center for Book Arts, etc. There has recently been some
consolidation in the field, as in the San Francisco Center and the Columbia
Collge Chicago Center. Pyramid Atlantic, Granary Books, and many more
organizations were founded by dedicated visionaries.
Walter Hamady was encouraging the creative use of letterpress at U.
Wisconsin. John Risseeuw produced "The Politics of Underwear" and was
teaching at U. Arizona. Many other colleges started book arts programs, both
undergraduate and graduate, and the Collegiate Book Arts Association was formed.
Keith Smith produced his seminal books on book structures for artists.
These and more educational and exhibition opportunities provided a huge
amount of exposure to a new generation of artists and artisans, and a
geometric expansion of the field took place.
If we want to look at a decade, I would suggest taking a look at the catalog
of the The New York Public Library exhibition "The First Decade: Center for
Book Arts' First Ten Years" which was curated by Frank Mattson, NYPL Curator
of Rare Books (NYPL, 1984). I believe The Center for Book Arts still has
copies available for about $15 Call them at (212) 481-0295 or e-mail
The growth can thus be observed from several points of view: the
contributions of individual artists and individual works which changed the
way people see books; the development of an institutional infrastructure in
the academic and not-for-profit sectors; and the presentation by museums and
galleries of exhibitions of book art. One would expect that with some
thought and time we could come up with other factors, such as social and
technological change, which caused people to find the book a suitable medium
for its totemic and iconographic qualities.
It would be wonderful to see an accurate and scholarly series of
publications on the contemporary history of book art. I know that several
graduate students are now working on different aspects of it for their own
purposes. Perhaps some of them will find funding for an in-depth treatment
of the subject, perhaps from NEH. There are so many artists, educators and
curators whose work propelled this movement, and who are unknown to many
I would love to see on this list everybody's recollections of events,
artists, organizations, or individual works which they feel contributed to
the growth of the field. We have already lost many of the great people, like
Tony Zwicker, who made our lives our field richer. If only the Book_Arts-L
archive could be keyword or concept searched for their memories!
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