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Exhibitions in the Arts Library: Songs of Songs

The Song of Songs

Artist, printer, and publisher Robin Price is currently in production on her interpretation of The Song of Songs (forthcoming), issued in scroll format, bilingual in Hebrew and English, using the 1995 edition of the translation of the ancient Hebrew by Chana & Ariel Bloch. She is working in collaboration with artist Barbara Benish, type designer Liron Lavi Turkenich, and vocal artist Victoria Hanna. Included in the exhibition "How right they are to adore you!" The Song of Songs Interpreted Through Fine Printing (which was on display at the Arts Library from September 28, 2015-February 19, 2016) were process materials, remnants of the complicated decision making process to finalize the design and layout. Barbara Benish and Robin Price first met in fall 1993 at Occidental College in Los Angeles. Price was teaching there and saw an installation by Benish in the College’s gallery. This led to their first collaboration, which resulted in The Book of Revelation, published by Price in 1995 (Haas Family Arts Library Special Collections call number Z232 P943 Z9 B5 1995 (LC)+). The artists have been working on their current collaboration sporadically for over a decade with more continuous energy devoted to the project now that publication is nearRobin Price and Barbara Benish spoke about their collaboration on this project on Tuesday, November 10, 2015, at Sterling Memorial Library.

Robin Price has been working as a printer and publisher of fine press and artists’ books for 30 years. A detailed account of her impressive career can be found in Counting on Chance: 25 Years of Artists' Books by Robin Price, Publisher (Wesleyan University, 2010). The Haas Family Arts Library has an extensive collection of her editioned bookworks and broadsides.  Price’s work has also been included in these book arts surveys: Masters: Book Arts (Lark Books, 2011), Extra/ordinary: Craft and Contemporary Art [e-book version] (Duke University Press, 2010), 500 Handmade Books: A Celebration of Contemporary Book Forms (Lark Books, 2008), Book Art Object (Codex Foundation, 2008), No Longer Innocent: Book Art in America 1960-1980 (Granary Books, 2005), Structure of the Visual Book. Expanded 4th edition. (Keith Smith Books, 2003).

Barbara Benish

California-born artist Barbara Benish has divided her time between the U.S. and the Czech Republic since the 1980's, settling in Central Europe in 2003 as a Fulbright Professor at the Academy of Applied Art and Architecture in Prague. Benish’s body of work has resulted in numerous awards, grants and nearly 200 exhibitions around the world and is represented in major public and private collections including the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and the Stadts Museum in Nurnberg, Germany. Benish helped found the Experimental Graphics Atelier at the Academy of Art in Brno (Czech Republic), one of the first foreign women to be invited into the Academy in that country after the changes of 1989. She has exhibited internationally for nearly 30 years, including at the Venice Biennale, Pomona Museum (USA), and P.S.1 Museum in New York. Ms. Benish has taught and lectured on art at University of California, as well as in Prague. In 2004 Benish founded the NGO Art Dialogue, based in the Czech countryside, which supports an artist-run gallery, international exhibitions, workshops, and an artist-in-residency program at ArtMill, a center focusing on sustainable art and its effects on social change.  She is an Affiliate with the Social Practice Arts Research Center at U.C. Santa Cruz, where she is focusing on a marine sanctuary public art project.  Ms. Benish is currently co-authoring a book on environmental art for Routledge Press (2016).

Victoria Hanna

Israeli vocal artist Victoria Hanna’s work will be included in Price’s version of The Song of Songs. Hanna’s work is an aural parallel to Price’s visually based project.  An article online in The Times of Israel said: “Hanna is known for mesmerizing interpretations of traditional Jewish texts (both Hebrew and Aramaic) that combine traditional Middle Eastern sounds with contemporary genres, such as rap and hip-hop. Among her religious literary inspirations are the biblical Song of Songs and the Kabbalistic “Sefer Yetzirah” (The Book of Creation).” In this online video Hanna discusses the words and performs some text from The Song of Songs.

Liron Lavi Turkenich

Price struggled to find a Hebrew typeface that had the visual characteristics she was seeking for her version of the The Song of Songs. The typeface Makeda by Israeli graphic designer Liron Lavi Turkenich incorporates both the visual and symbolic components sought by Price. Turkenich writes on her web site: “Makeda, is a typeface designed in three scripts which bring together different worlds. Hebrew, Amharic (Ethiopic) and Latin are harmonised with each other, while maintaining loyalty to the unique structure of each script. The story of Makeda, the Ethiopian Queen (also known as the Queen of Sheba) is a story of a powerful and mysterious woman, traveling to meet King Solomon in a history changing act. The typeface is intended for multi script use, suitable as a text typeface with generous x-height and large counters.”