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Re: Book Art vs. Book Arts

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>From: Richard Minsky <minsky@MINSKY.COM>
>Reply-To: "Book_Arts-L: READ THE FAQ at http://www.philobiblon.com"
>Subject: Re: Book Art vs. Book Arts
>Date: Tue, 28 Aug 2001 18:10:48 -0400
>The use of the museum to promote the artists owned by the trustees has
>always been a factor in the art world. If you went to the "Book Art"
>show MOMA presented a few years ago, you may have noticed that it was
>not about the artists that we on this list think of as major, seminal,
>original book artists.  It was mostly artists in other media that are
>collected by the museum's trustees or that are in the museum
>collection for other reasons, and who did books.

I haven't been in New York since 1981, but I am familiar with the Franklin
Furnace Archive, which was created by Martha Wilson, and -- I believe --
donated to MoMA. Martha was one of the people who created the concept of
book art. She had a huge collection of what she called book-like works by
artists. There was also a distributor called Printed Matter, Inc. that sold
all kinds of artists' books, most of them produced in tiny editions, often
on copying machines and the like. People were still using mimeograph
machines then. Are they still?

>From the little bit I saw of Martha's collection, it was very much an
attempt to define an area rather than to, say, curate a collection, and her
definition (or definitions, really) was very broad, so broad that I couldn't
quite get what she was aiming at in some cases. I didn't know that I was a
book artist until she told me that I was. Until then, I was just some kind
of nut case writing books out in my own handwriting.

Ed Sorel looked at one of my books and he said, "The calligraphy is not very

I replied, "It's not calligraphy. It's a middle-aged man trying to create
calligraphy. It's the process, not the form. There's a story he 's telling
and the errors in his technique are part of it."

"Well, still, the calligraphy could be better."

It gets very dark sometimes (3:19 a.m, right now), you know, when people
look at your work and say, "You realize that you will be famous after your

Compassion and art criticism should not join forces. I'm glad to see that my
essay has aroused interest. I got one private note admonishing me about
getting political. I did not mean to use the list as a forum for a political
discussion, but to point out that art criticism is often influenced by
factors that don't have much to do with what artists do when they create it.
Therefore we should be very wary of professional and institutional
definitions and rely on what we, as artists, know to be art. That may be
circular reasoning, but it will have to do for now.

"Inside the museums, Infinity goes up on trial." -- Bob Dylan, Visions of
Johanna. He did tend to whine, but there it is. Infinity goes on trial and
sometimes the trial is for heresy.

JULES SIEGEL Apdo 1764 Cancun Q. Roo 77501

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