Women in a Golden Age of Artists’ Books

The Center for Book Arts is hosting a roundtable on the work of women book artists on May 22nd. Here’s what to expect:

Though artists’ books can arguably trace their origins back to medieval volumes like the Trѐs Riches Heures, contemporary artists’ books tend to reference William Blake as the forerunner to the genre. And since then, the field has produced masters like Dieter Roth, Andy Warhol, Ed Ruscha, and others who transform books into art objects.

The 1970s and 80s are considered by many experts as the golden age of offset printed artists’ books, and though it was a field mostly dominated by men, women were making their mark, too. A roundtable discussion being held at New York’s Center for Book Artson Tuesday May 22 will explore the work of those women creators of offset printed artists’ books, the challenges they faced, and what they hope the future holds for the next generation of printmakers. Participants include Cynthia Marsh, founder of Tennessee’s Goldsmith Press; Rebecca Michaels, a photography professor at Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia; and Philadelphia-based book artist, printmaker, and professor Patty Smith.

The panel will be moderated by the Met’s associate chief librarian of the Watson Library, Tony White, whose exhibition, Production, not Reproduction: a Chronological History of Offset Printed Artists’ Books, appeared at Yale in 2006 and at the Center for Book Arts in 2007.

Diane Dias De Fazio, a public services librarian at the NYPL and one of our featured librarians in the “Bright Young Librarians” series, has been instrumental in organizing the event. “The work of Smith, Marsh, and Michaels was featured in both iterations of that exhibition. White also served as guest editor for Volume 25 of the Journal of Artists’ Books,” Dias De Fazio said in an email recently.                                                                                          

 

“I interviewed all three women ten years ago when I was creating a genealogy of offset printers for Volume #25 of the Journal of Artists Books,” explained White. “I learned about where they discovered printing, who they studied with, and who they taught. There are a number of male offset printers who have received more recognition, but who came a generation or so later. With so many women book artists’ and printers, I want to make sure their stories are heard, especially in the contemporary book production environment.”

Though Tuesday’s panel of participants is far from complete, White believes that the women sharing their stories are representative of the experiences others have had.

“In a way, I am returning to a project I started in 2007 to gather and publish the interviews of offset printers,” explained White. “The focus of the program is on women who played important, foundational roles in the field of high speed rotary offset printing. “It is a highly technical and demanding printing process–much less forgiving that letterpress.”

“Women in a Golden Age of Artists’ Books” happens on Tuesday, May 22 at the Center for Book Arts (28 West 27th St, 3rd floor) from 6:30-7:45. RSVP to this event at rsvp@centerforbookarts.org.

Albertine Prize Needs Your Help!

Calling all American Francophiles: the Albertine Prize needs your vote! Organized by the Fifth Avenue bookstore, Albertine, and co-presented by jeweler Van Cleef & Arpels  and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, the award recognizes American readers’ favorite French-language fiction titles translated into English and distributed in the U.S. within the preceding calendar year.

This year’s nominees are winnowed to five titles covering a range of perspectives and narrative styles; UCLA professor Alain Mabanckou’s Black Moses (Petit Piment, 2015) follows a Congoloese boy who escapes a terrifying orphanage and is raised by thieves in Pointe-Noire, and Christine Angot’s controversial story about molestation, Incest (Inceste, 1999) also makes the shortlist.

The Albertine Prize selection committee includes author and translator Lydia Davis, French literary critic and La Grande Librairie host François Busnel, and the staff at the Albertine bookstore in New York City.

Not sure which book to vote for? Albertine will host a springtime Book Battle, where five critics and professors will defend their favorite title.
Anyone can vote, just follow the link here. Ballots close May 1, 2018, with an awards ceremony on June 6. The winner will receive a $10,000 prize, to be split between author and translator. Bonne lecture!  

Get into the Giving Mood by Donating to Booklyn’s Kickstarter

The year-end fundraiser to keep Booklyn in Brooklyn is nearing its final days. Founded in 1999, the non-profit artists and bookmakers association has promoted, documented, and distributed artists’ books to the general public and educational institutions, dedicated to education through the exhibition and distribution of art books and prints. (For a thorough examination, read A.N. Devers’ piece about the nonprofit here, from the Fine Books & Collections Spring 2015 issue.)
Having long ago grown out of its 600-square-foot studio in Greenpoint, the organization has been on the hunt for a new home, and was recently invited to take up residence at ArtBuilt Brooklyn, a 50,000-square-foot art community at the Brooklyn Army Terminal. There, Booklyn will have a production studio, art gallery, event space, and an office to continue producing artists’ books.

To fund the move, Booklyn went to Kickstarter. Read the rest of the story on the Fine Books Blog. Then see all the goodies available to donors here.

 

images courtesy of Booklyn

Kickstarter-Funded Biography of W.A. Dwiggins Heading to the Presses

Eagle-eyed readers may recall our story back in April about a Kickstarter-funded biography on William Addison Dwiggins, that twentieth-century book designer who coined the term “graphic design” back in the 1920s.

The inaugural project for Letterform Archive ultimately received $171,574, sailing past its fundraising goal of $50,000. As of November 21, the book was in its final proofing stage and will be on the press before the year is out. Proofing the book is no small task: over 1,000 images pepper the book, but author-designer Bruce Kennett and his team are dedicated to “producing a printed image that comes as close as the real thing,” with a secondary goal of setting a new bar for subsequent Archive publications.

Read all about the swag awaiting patient backers at the Fine Books Blog.

 

Curatorial Quest Yields Rare Book Discovery in Honolulu

A few months ago, a curator at the Honolulu Museum of Art stumbled upon a rare 19th century manual on Japanese art that he didn’t even know existed in the museum archives. Stephen Salel had been searching for materials for an exhibition devoted to  female Japanese manga artists. Recognized today as a sub genre of graphic novels, manga as an art form dates to the nineteenth century, and Salel was looking specifically for work created by Katsushika Oi (1800-1866), considered by many experts to be the first female manga artist. If the name sounds familiar, that’s probably because she was the daughter of Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), whose 1823 woodblock print The Great Wave Off Kanagawa has been reproduced countless times around the world. More at the Fine Books Blog. 

October Quick Picks

Put down the Halloween candy and grab one of these literary treats instead:

See What I have Done, by Sarah Schmidt, Grove Atlantic; $26.00, 324 pages.

Australian library coordinator-turned-novelist makes her chilling debut with a reinterpretation of the infamous story of Lizzie Borden, the Fall River, Massachusetts, native who bludgeoned her father and stepmother to death with an axe 125 years ago this past August.  Borden was tried and acquitted of the crimes, and officially, the murders remain unsolved, but Schmidt’s reexamination of the events through multiple narrators offers gruesome, cruel new perspectives on hidden family secrets.

A Bold and Dangerous Family: The Remarkable Story of an Italian Mother, her Two Sons, and their Fight against Fascism, by Caroline Moorehead, Harper; $27.99, 488 pages. 

National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction finalist Caroline Moorehead (Human Cargo) takes on another topic examining courage under oppression. Here, we meet the Rossellis, an aristocratic family opposed to fascism and Benito Mussolini’s rise to power before World War II.  Using family letters and secret police files, Moorehead recounts how the Rosselli’s dedicated their lives and resources to rebelling against Mussolini’s reign of terror, and how their courage continued to inspire opposition during the dark days of war. A vivid portrait of a country’s decent into darkness and of those who defied it.

In the Darkness of the Night, by Bruno Munari, Princeton Architectural Press; $35.00, 60 pages.

InTheDarknessOfTheNight_CVR

Originally published in Italy in 1956 under the title Nella notte buia, this little masterpiece uses a full arsenal of book arts techniques to convey space and time. Rather than relying exclusively on text, author Bruno Munari (1907-1998) relies instead on symphony of words and images to convey the story. Thick paper cutouts give way to fragile transparent sheets, making for a wholly unexpected and holistic reading experience. Perfect for collectors and paper engineers alike.

Left Bank Books is Back, Online

Left Bank Books is back, but without the brick and mortar setup. Erik DuRon and artist Jess Kuronen recently relaunched the Greenwich Village book hub as an online shop with a curated inventory of vintage, collectible and rare materials. Both worked briefly at the old Left Bank Books before it shuttered in 2016. They kindly answered a few questions recently about the relaunch and what it’s been like to transition to a digital bookstore.

Best of luck to the latest incarnation of Left Bank Books–be sure to visit their website here, and read my Q&A with the new owners on the Fine Books Blog.