Books as Art: Artist’s Books

Since the 15th century, artists have partnered with writers and book binders to create beautifully illustrated books. The earliest European tomes were devotionals, enriched by illuminated letters and hand-colored woodblock prints. Reading matter diversified after Johann Gutenberg invented typography and the printing press in the 1450s. As the publishing industry grew, the connection between the author, illustrator and publisher fragmented. In contrast, artist’s books, which emerged in the late 20th century, are characterized by their collaborative methodology, handmade qualities, and small editions. Book artists conceive of their publication as a whole, with contributors working together on a common vision.

The books in this exhibition examine the techniques of folding, cutting, and binding, as well as how paper selection and construction contribute to a publication where all parts are integrated. Within the cases are works that challenge our very definition of a book, such as Amy Pirkle’s cigarette–shaped Smoke and books that expand our definition of art, such as Kristin Merola’s Binder. There are volumes that spring from the artist’s most personal experiences, unique publications and illustrated books that bring new perspectives to classic titles. While this exhibition may leave you with more questions than answers, we hope that these ingenious volumes encourage you to re-evaluate the way you define both art and books.

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