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Re: [BKARTS] Book Arts Article--Books without Words

Ann Grasso wrote:
In the wake of the NY Times article I have, once again, taken
minutes/hours to ponder the nature of communication. [...]

I was troubled by the tone of the Franks' article. It seemed to by-pass
the idea that communication through the book format might come in other
than words.

I, too, am troubled by the New York Times article, but for a different reason. I saw the New York Public Library "Ninety for the Nineties" exhibit a couple days ago, and, while I recognized the works highlighted in the article, they were but a small sampling and hardly representative of the show. In fact, from the perspective of a graphic designer or a printer, the review misses many of the most important works--not to mention the items which Virginia Bartow, the curator, gives pride of place within the exhibition cases. I saw impressive illustration, calligraphy, fine presswork, paper making, binding and design. Frankly, I wonder if Franks has any appreciation for the book-as-book and little education in the history of books and printing (for example, the comments about William Morris are cribbed from Virginia Bartow's exhibition brochure).

Nowhere in the article is there mention that the show includes a small
selection of technology artifacts: Dan Carr has loaned some progressive
punches to show the art of punch-cutting; Ed Colker's photopolymer plate
appear next to his work (a quibble: not all PP plates are mounted
magnetically as the exhibit label states); samples of paper are in the case
dedicated to paper. There are scholarly books, like John Bidwell's _Fine
Papers at the Oxford University Press_, printed by Whittington Press, 1999.
Smart AND good-looking! (In fact, the book is positively reviewed by
bibliographer David Vander Muelen in the latest issue of the _Publications
of the Bibliographical Society of America_, Dec 2003--and that's something
to think about: a fine press book that receives the attention of at least
some scholars, who are concerned not only with words and their meaning, but
also with the design [beauty, if you will] and the production values of
these books.)

The Times's reviewers sometimes (frequently? often? usually?) miss the
point of a non-fine art show. Indeed, it's a common complaint among New
York curators and librarians outside the art museums that the Times doesn't
review any exhibition that isn't an art show.  That's not strictly true,
but it's broadly true: exhibitions on history, literature, science or other
topics very rarely receive in-depth coverage. So it should come as no
surprise that "Ninety for the Nineties" is characterized as being primarily
about book objects, rather than for the 80-or so 'bookish' books. Heck, at
least the show has been reviewed!

Let me get off my soapbox.

Paul W. Romaine

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