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Book Arts: Societal Tensions

Subject-specific lists of book arts materials available in Special Collections at the Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library

Artists' books about societal tensions

Tate Foley.  Fears of White Men.  Athens, GA: T. Foley, 2010.  Haas Arts Special Collections NJ18 F71312 A12 2010 (LC) Oversize

The artist writes, “This work derives, simply, from the irrational fears of white men, more specifically, the white American race. Through heavy satire I hope to attack racial issues from an angle that hopefully has only briefly been explored, to create absurdity.”[1] Using poster-sized wood type with no embellishment, the absurd phrases scream at the viewer and underscore the outlandish nature of these ideas.  Foley is reversing the idea that something in print often seems more valid; in this case, seeing the ideas in bold black and white, ideas that are usually not discussed openly, forces the viewer to acknowledge their existence and the tensions these phrases represent in our society.


Dona Ann McAdams. Disco in the Ghetto.  [New York?] : D.A. McAdams, [1980?] Haas Arts Special Collections NJ18.M11552 A12 1980 (LC) Oversize

As a photographer interested in capturing decisive moments “on the street” in order to tell a story, the book format was a natural choice for McAdams to share her work.  In Disco in the Ghetto, McAdams chronicles the unprecedented number of fires that happened in poor neighborhoods of New York City in the early 1970s, paying special attention to the Lower East Side. Page upon page of images of crumbling buildings, burned out cars, and firemen in action culminates in a series of angry graffiti messages from the neighborhood to the city government.  McAdams captured the destruction of the city and rage of the residents making this an important document of the moment.  Just this year, journalist Joe Flood published a more traditional documentation of the events:  The Fires: How a Computer Formula Burned Down New York City--And Determined the Future of American Cities (Riverhead Press, 2010).  Flood provides a theory, with sound supporting research, on how good-intentioned mismanagement of New York City’s fire services caused long lasting problems.

Associate Director, Arts Library

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Jessica Pigza
Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library