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Book Arts: Artists' Books

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

Finding Aids available

AOB 3 American Trade Cards

AOB 9 Rollins papers

AOB 13 Love corporate brand identity manuals

AOB 20 Hornung papers

AOB 31 Dana Collection of Anna Mackova

AOB 33 MFA Theses in Graphic Design

AOB 34 Yale Student Printing Collection

AOB 36 MFA Theses in Photography

Artists' Books

Inge Bruggeman. A Crisis Ethicist’s Directions for Use, or, How to Be at Home in a Residence-Cum-Laboratory. [Portland, OR]: INK-A! Press, 2003. Z232 I58 Z9 B77 2003 (LC)

This book consists of a box that opens to reveal a plastic container of pushpins and a ring-bound booklet of 24 fold-out pages nestled in a paper slipcase.  In the colophon, Bruggeman deems this work a “book/kit/manual,” whereby the binding and pushpins serve as a Fluxus-styled invitation to the reader/user to take the book apart and re-structure it.  Bruggeman also adopts an architectural analogy for the book structure itself by reproducing on the title page a hint of a floor plan with the caption “Main Entrance.”    Both the title and text are excerpted from the book Architectural Body (2002), written by architects Madeline Gins and Arakawa.  The verso of each page makes up a 4 x 6 matrix of the floor plan for Bioscleave House, a residence completed by Gins and Arakawa in 2008 in East Hampton, NY.  As noted on the “To Be Continued…” page, Gins and Arakawa consider Bioscleave House a work of “procedural architecture,” which “takes shape according to and is thus animated by its Directions for Use.”  The booklet includes 21 numbered directions.  Each of the top-bound sections flips up as well as folds out to the right.  The same text is repeated throughout this unfolding, although the typography becomes bolder, the text is reversed, and the spaces between the lines grow closer so that by the fourth imprint each direction disappears into solid black lines.  The text is further transformed by the accompaniment of vaguely architectural visual and textural elements, which tease the reader/user with additional patterns to decipher.          

Emily Speed. Unfolding Architecture. Rosendale, NY: Women’s Studio Workshop, 2007. NJ18.Sp2834 A12 2007 (LC)

Speed tells the story of Gordon, who has the unusual experience of seeing all of the architectural elements of his life (skyscrapers, houses, other buildings) literally unfold and collapse into a single plane.  As the city deconstructs, Gordon has “a real insight into the vast space held inside the buildings of this city, and the implications this held if it all unfolded.” Speed’s line drawings (of installations she created previously) give the reader a glimpse into Gordon’s world as it seems to fall apart. The book is printed on one sheet of paper, folded into an accordion style book, with wooden covers.  So while the book has a three dimensional form, it also exists on a singular plane, reinforcing the narrative of the written text through the physical format of the object.  Further, the book is housed in a box made of balsa wood.  When the lid is removed, the sides fall open, much like the unfolding buildings described in the text.

Robbin Ami Silverberg. Home Sweet Home. Brooklyn, NY: Dobbin Books, 2006. NJ18.Si3138 A12 2006 (LC) Oversize Unit 2

Robbin Ami Silverberg, proprietor of Dobbin Mill and Dobbin Books, is known for her use of handmade paper in her artists’ books.  This book is part of a larger series, which includes other bookworks, sculpture, and installations, in which Silverberg explores cultural beliefs about the role of women in society.  For Home Sweet Home, Silverberg collected proverbs from various cultures which reflect that culture’s attitude toward women, usually negative, some outwardly misogynistic.  Using an image of a historic blue print for a generic  4-bedroom house, Silverberg populated the rooms and decorated the elevations of the house with sayings that also reference the architecture. To further extend the metaphor of architecture, Silverberg created handmade paper with the properties of drafting vellum: thin, translucent, and noisy when handled.  The work consists of 11 different proverbial plans and elevations, all printed inkjet in blue and black.

Karen Hanmer.  Model Architect: The Panic of '09. [Glenview, IL]: Karen Hanmer, 2010.  NJ18.H176448 A12 2010 (LC) Oversize

Book artist Karen Hanmer frequently uses historical imagery and text to comment on contemporary society.  In this work, she has meshed text and illustrations from an 1852 book of architectural plans with text from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s online Guide to Avoiding Foreclosure.  This pairing reminds us of the old adage that history repeats itself.  Hanmer bound the book to resemble the time period of the earlier text, with leather spine, marbled paper, decorated edges of the text block, and gold tooling and titling.

Emily McVarish. These Buildings are Falling. San Francisco: E. McVarish, 1995. N7433.4 M28 T44 1995 (LC) Oversize

Emily McVarish. Wards of Obsolescence. San Francisco: E. McVarish, 1995. N7433.4 M28 W37 1995 (LC)+ Oversize

Emily McVarish. “The Details Were at the Far End.” [1995]. Collection of Broadsides by Artists and Presses AOB 41

Book artist, printer, and writer Emily McVarish teaches at the California College of the Arts.  She is also a respected scholar of graphic design, who co-authored with Johanna Drucker, the well-received book Graphic Design History: A Critical Guide (2008).  McVarish started printing in 1990, so these three works are from the early part of her career.  She explored the relationship between word and image in a series of broadsides and book objects that were exhibited together under the title “Wards of Obsolecence” at the 871 Fine Arts gallery in San Francisco.  She then retooled these works into the more traditional stapled pamphlet binding of the book of the same name.

Photography based artists' books

Edward Ruscha.  Then & now: Hollywood Boulevard 1973-2004. Göttingen: Steidl, 2005. Folio NJ18.R887 A12 2005 (LC)

Edward Ruscha.  Every building on the Sunset Strip. [Los Angeles]: [E. Ruscha], 1966. NJ18.R887 A12 1966 (LC)

Ed Ruscha’s first artist’s book, Twentysix Gasoline Stations (1963), was famously rejected by the Library of Congress, and his subsequent publications persisted in defying library classification.  Every Building on the Sunset Strip is similar to Ruscha’s other book works in its laconic, informational title, small size, and use of photography and commercial offset printing.  However, this book differs in that the panoramic images of Sunset Boulevard – taken by a motorized, mounted camera as Ruscha drove up and down the street – are stitched together and printed in two continuous strips, one side of the street facing the other, on an accordion fold that spans 25 feet.  

The vernacular architecture of this legendary thoroughfare unfolds in an ostensibly objective manner, punctuated only by house numbers and the occasional cross street.  Where the book calls attention to itself because of its structure, the buildings reproduced are completely devoid of structure, flattened into the impossibly simultaneous and continuous view out of both sides of a traveling car.  

Ruscha also documented both sides of Hollywood Boulevard in 1973.  Thirty years later, the same 12 miles were re-photographed in color.  Both panoramas were scanned and digitally reproduced in Then & Now, which echoes Every Building on the Sunset Strip, though in a traditional codex format.  Ruscha seems to privilege seriality and horizontality, which makes the reader’s experience all the more jarring whenever the trunk of a palm tree interrupts the progression or the angle of a later shot does not match that of the original.     

Gordon Matta-Clark. Splitting. New York: Loft Press, 1974. NJ18 M4445 A12 1974 (LC) Oversize

Gordon Matta-Clark (1943-1978) was trained as an architect at Cornell, although his artistic output comprises installation and performance art, sculpture, photography, film, writings, and, most notably, his building dissections.  Along with a short film and several photocollages, Splitting serves to document the 1974 dissection of a condemned single-family residence at 322 Humphrey Street in Englewood, NJ.  Besides cutting the entire house in half with two parallel lines one inch apart, Matta-Clark also beveled the foundation beneath one of the halves and removed the four corners of the house at the eaves.  

Splitting includes a sparse textual narrative of the before, during, and after of Matta-Clark’s project.  Black and white photographic images and collages document these activities, sometimes mimicking the façade view of architectural elevations while also emphasizing the beautiful play of light and the new spatial conceptions that result from violating a conventional architectural form.  The book concludes with a fold-out image of the literal cross section of the house, a diagrammatic view ordinarily reserved for architects alone.

Andrew Huot. Fade to Gray. Philadelphia: Borowsky Center for Publication Arts, 2007. NJ18.H9188 A12 2007 (LC)

This simple book is the artist’s visual representation of how the landscape of our country from west to east predominately changes from more open and green to more developed and gray.  Printed offset in an edition of 100, this democratic multiple received the “Best in Show” award for Democratic Books at the 2008 Pyramid Atlantic Book Arts Fair.