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Re: book art, book arts, art

           See The Exhibition Online, And Order Your Catalog.

Suze Rotolo wrote:

> As artists we develop by looking at art that appeals to our visions and
> art that doesnt. Artists will repeat themes forever, in new ways, old
> ways, wrong and right ways. Its part of the process of making art.

This is very true.  The themes remain the same, going back through time really.  In
art & architecture (to which book design is a direct relative), recurrent themes and
constructions are an expression of the universal human psychological make-up.  To be
well-schooled in the arts, we must look carefully at all cultures, not just the

The details and methods of execution do vary in almost all arts, as do the
materials.  Book Arts attract me because of the capacity for creativity within the
framework of precision and tradition... but in addition to this, there are
beautifully expressive modern book designs that have nothing to do with Western book
binding tradition, whose energy and style has taken my breath away.

> Reading about art is fine, but the only way I'll discover what (to cite
> from Minsky) Buzz Spector (et al) has done, is if I have the opportunity
> to see it. But it does no good to insist people know what came first
> before they start creating. Its usually the other way around.

This is also a very true statement in my experience.  Curiosity is sparked when one
experiences the methods of creation for themselves.  A good example of this within
the arts is music; when one begins to learn an instrument as a child, one is
normally quite 'in the dark' about music history and background.  But in learning to
play each piece, one also learns about the piece's historical context (musically,
politically etc), the life of the composer, and so on.

Richard Minsky wrote:

> A basis in doing certainly gives the artist a foundation for seeing,
> understanding, and appreciating what others have done.  I'm not certain that
> doing is necessary to be a historian, critic, dealer or collector.

I agree, I don't think it's necessary, from what I know about any of these things..
but what I'm wondering is, what is necessary?  In order to properly represent the
work (Book Arts, or any other fine craft or art)  one is discussing or dealing with,
I wonder how the historian, critic, dealer or collector correctly prepares
him/herself?   I believe this is on-topic, since we will all think about exhibiting
our work one day, if we haven't already.

> The issue
> becomes problematical when dealers sell redundant work (that which is very
> similar to earlier work that set the stage that made the redundant work
> possible) to collectors and pass it off as original, breakthrough, seminal work.
> Generally this is not done maliciously or fraudulently, but out of ignorance. It
> is when the creator gets to the stage of exhibiting and selling the work that
> knowledge of the field becomes important to honest and scholarly representation.

Here again, one must look at worldly culture in order to have a proper framework for
placing such things.  In the West, Picasso's work (and that of many of his
contemporaries) was seen as 'original' and new, but it was in fact 'redundant' of
African motifs/expressions of the figure.  The non-redundant thing is in the
materials he chose, and in the singular personality of the artist himself, which
shows through in his work.  I'm sure similarities apply in Books Arts as well.
Incidentally, I have been studying art all my life, and have almost never heard of
Picasso's being inspired so heavily by African Art (and it was a direct
inspiration... he attended a gallery showing of African traditional arts, and
literally ran home to his studio to begin working out the ideas he felt springing
forth)   When studying the history of anything, one must go out of one's way to be
thorough.  Too much of Western education is "whitewashed", so to speak.

> One sees lots of students (and those who skipped the student stage) out there
> exhibiting their work before they know much about the field. What's the point of
> an exhibition of new work? Despite all the facts to the contrary, it's not
> supposed to be for the ego or bank account of the artist. It's to let one's
> peers know what one is up to, if one believes the work is treading on new
> ground. It may be to expose the public to a new vision that will change the way
> they see things. There are other real reasons to exhibit new work, but they all
> rely on the curator, dealer and artist presenting new work that is in fact new.

I disagree; if this were so, why does the artist's work become exponentially more
'valuable' once he or she is dead, and it has all been seen before, at previous

It would be impossible for the artist to constantly tread 'new' ground anyway within
his or her field... only within his or her own body of work.  It's the manner of
execution of the old ideas which make it original, for that artist.  It doesn't
necessarily 'forward' the field of art on the whole.  I doubt any artist has ever
had this as his/her goal.

Also, contrary to popular rumors, there are very few artists who have any sort of
bank accounts whatsoever.  Ego, yes.. bank account, zip!   Sometimes having enough
of an ego to keep working in spite of everything is the only thing keeping an artist
alive and sane.  Again, look to Picasso's early career.

> The important word in Suze's comment is "creating." In the above context this
> means doing something that advances book art more than following instructions or
> making product for sale in the Mall. I would agree completely with the comment
> if it read
> "it does no good to insist people know what came first before they start
> making."

If you could, please explain the difference between creating and making.  I'm unsure
what you mean.

> One can make a great copy of a Vermeer (I wish I could) and regard it as a
> "creation," or of a Legrain binding. But while it might be a nice thing to own
> and would advance the skill and knowledge of the artist, it would bot advance
> the art. I just see too many "copies" of works made by Dieter Roth, Michael
> Gibbs, and Marty Greenbaum, done by kids who never heard of them.

As you say, it is important to look to the masters of the art and 'copy' them as
closely as possible to try to achieve their level of skill, if one is a student of
traditional methods.   I think 'advancing' the art will come once the new students
have a good grasp of these skills, and come to create on their own eventually, as
artists, within that framework.  At the same time, it's equally useful to come at it
from an 'outsider' perspective as well, and gradually learn the techniques of the
old masters as one works.  I think much energy and originality can come from this
direction.  It is hard to reconcile the insistence on adhering to the classics,
while simultaneously decrying the lack of originality and newness.  At the same
time, practitioners of the old style are dismissing the 'outsider' point of view
completely as being nonconformist... too creative or free-form.  There must be a
comfortable meeting point somewhere?

Robin T

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