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[BKARTS] Richard Minsky, Book Artist to Visit Oberlin September 9th

Book Artist to Visit Oberlin September 9th

Oberlin College students and local residents are in for a treat during the
month of September. Returning students will be greeted by a temporary
exhibit in the Main Library by "Book Artist" Richard Minsky. Minsky has
been both thrilling and upsetting the bookbinding establishment ever since
1973, when, as a 25-year-old disciple of Brown University's bookbinding
classicist Daniel Gibson Knowlton, he suddenly "started going in a
different direction."  Beginning with an 1834 copy of Pettigrew's History
of Egyptian Mummies repaired and wrapped by Minsky in binding sheets of
mummifying linen emblazoned with one single small turquoise like an ancient
scarab. In 1974 Minsky founded the nonprofit Center for Book Arts in New
York City (www.centerforbookarts.org/). Since then, this Center has since
held hundreds of exhibitions, lectures and workshops, as well as offering a
variety of extended classes taught by the most creative craft bookbinders
in the world.

"Artists' Books" are primarily works of visual literature and may not
resemble our usual notion of what a printed book should look like. In some
cases there is no written text. Reading a visual book is not altogether
different from reading one with text. We bring to it our literacy -- not
one of language and words, but of images we have seen and digested. Artists
are thus free to explore the concept of the "book" and the results can be
provocative and humorous. In his edition of Minsky in Bed, Richard Minsky
reveals the (mis)adventures of his love life. The text and commentary are
highlighted by the author with historiated, hand colored and gilded (and
inhabited) initial letters. As with the books of the 15th century, methods
of production evolved with the edition and no two copies are the same.
Buyers then commissioned unique bindings; the Victoria and Albert museum in
London ordered a binding in Minsky's bedsheets (image). The copy in the
collection of The Ruth and Marvin Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual
Poetry in Miami has a binding of purple calf with eight Vermeil copulating
couples, brass chain and handcuffs.

"Book Art" has grown from an esoteric medium with a few dozen practitioners
and no audience to a field with thousands of artists, a wide audience, and
a developing K-12 curriculum. The act of "publication" for many of these
authors is to produce a single copy rather than an edition, and to place it
in an exhibition. This also happens because many Artist Books are not
entirely original; a large group of artists do not create their own texts
from blank pages, but alter existing texts. For instance, Minsky took a
copy of punk rocker Patti Smith's Babel and rebound it in ratskin and
goatskin and had the binding held together with safety pins.

Since 1993 Richard Minsky has been working on a series about The Bill of
Rights. The current offering is a edition of 25 sets of ten bookworks.
Minsky has found a way to exemplify the first 10 amendments to the U.S.
Constitution as artworks. For each amendment he has chosen a text that
either directly addresses the issue, is an example of what happens when
that Right is violated, or makes us think about the Right in a new way. For
the First Amendment protecting freedom of expression, for example, he
burned a copy of Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses and placed the charred
volume in a stained-glass windowed reliquary. The Fifth Amendment,
guaranteeing due process of law for criminal defendants, is illustrated by
a novel in the form of an epic poem, Branches by Mitch Cullin, about a
sinister Texas sheriff who takes the law into his own hands. Minsky bound
the book in khaki, added a sheriff's badge -- and "painted" the cover with
real bullet holes. For the Sixth Amendment, guaranteeing a speedy and
public trial, Minsky glued a black glove (daubed with red paint) onto a
copy of Jeffrey Toobin's best seller The Run of His Life: The People v. O.
J. Simpson. (image).

September is a particularly appropriate month for the exhibit as
"Constitution Week" falls in September. The Oberlin Art Department and the
Library will also be hosting a gallery talk at 4:00 PM, followed by a
lecture by Mr. Minsky at 4:30 on September 9th in the Main Library. You can
get an advanced look at the exhibit by visiting Minsky's website at:

Ed Vermue

Ed Vermue
Special Collections and Preservation Librarian
Oberlin College Library
415 Mudd Center
148 West College St.
Oberlin, OH 44074-1545
Ph: (440) 775-8285 x264
FAX: (440) 775-8739

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