Artists’ Books

If you are interested in the history of artists’ books, an excellent account of them can be found in Johanna Drucker, The Century of Artists’ Books, published by Granary Books.  I have the new edition of 2004 (the original publication date was ten years earlier).  It is sometimes forgotten, but artists have made fantastic interrogations of the book as form and structure — deepening its potential for emotional connection and aesthetic pleasure.  The variety of strategies inherent in their practices is well articulated by Drucker.

I think the artist’s book, along with the ornamented book, and the luxury book will have a resurgence under the threat of the electronic book.  This is not to say that artists won’t also interrogate the form and structure of the book within the digital realm!   However, the idea of holding a unique book in your hands and interacting with it in that very physical way (the weight of the paper, the feel of the cover, the smell of its age) as well as the emotional and psychological aspects of book possession…I don’t think the physical book will disappear anytime soon.  Of course, I once owned LPs, eight track tapes, cassettes, and then CDs, and now I download music from iTunes…so, what do I know about the evolution of media delivery systems?  I do know that I will always cherish my books as special objects with an aura that is indescribable.  Some of them were acquired with a great deal of effort; the search itself for those rare or obscure books, is an important part of my life and my understanding of myself.

There are collections of artists’ books that can be browsed online: http://printedmatter.org and http://www.artistsbooksonline.org

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