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Category: artists’ books

Lucy in the Sky

Peter Malutzki.  Lucy in the sky.  Big Brother is Watching You...

Book artist Peter Malutzki became interested with “selfies” and especially the way young women posed themselves for display on the Internet.  He reused images found online to create a book about fantasy and self-representation, Lucy in the Sky; Big Brother is Watching You.  Superimposed are the words from the Beatles’ song, Lucy in the Sky, a text he found a fitting juxtaposition to the self-presentation of these pictures.

Malutzki has been making books, using a wide variety of found materials and printing techniques, for decades.  With his partner Ines von Ketelhodt, he undertook a 50-volume set created over 10 years and based on a story by Jorge Luis Borges.  Entitled Zweite Enzyklopädie von Tlön, it evokes in visual terms a lost society like the one described in Borges’ story Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius.

Highlighting Artists’ Books

Take a break from studying and liven up your imagination by taking a peek at some artists’ books.  Here are a couple of highlights to get you started!


The Book of Warnings by Daniella Deeg

2001 Women’s Studio Workshop

This screen-printed artist book is stunning at first glance, tucked in a box with orange hazard ribbon, with more red warnings blazoned behind.  The pages have lively visuals of odd caution symbols and text, layered in reds and oranges, highlighted with crisp black and silver inks.  The novelty of the imagery and colors is soon coupled with more layered ideas of the reasoning behind taking precautions or taking risks.  The introduction explains the significance of “the human ability to anticipate the future” and how it enables “individuals can plan ahead and prepare themselves for things to come.”

The day-to-day warnings that go with a wet floor or with changing a light bulb are layered side by side with simple imagery of men fist-fighting, or with ideas about relationships.  “People might even try to use this foresight to turn the course of events to their liking” the introduction continues, adding a more active and perhaps devious twist to this idea of warning and anticipation.  Deeg’s work, initially perceived as a simple, vibrant accordion-folded book, suggests that we might need similar orange hazard warnings against something like falling in love or the more abstract risks of living.

How to Talk About Art by Miriam Shenitzer

1994 Women’s Studio Workshop

Looking to expand your vocabulary when talking about art?  Shenitzer’s tongue-in-cheek tutorial shows you how!  Black and white drawings of her adorable rat characters, coupled with pop-up book elements, take you through innovative ways to sound like you know what you are talking about.

This book mocks the language of art terminology as presented in some high-minded art criticism.  Short and sweet, this item is bound to make you smile, both reminding you of childhood pop-up books and make you laugh at the absurdities possible in talking about art.

This is just a taste of the enlightening and entertaining artists’ book collection at the Harvard Fine Arts Library.  Stop in and we would be glad to show you more!

Thanks to Alexandra Winzeler for compiling this entry and for all of her useful contributions this semester!

Listen, listen : a new artist’s book

The Fine Arts Library has just purchased a copy of the limited edition Listen, listen : Adadam Agofomma : honoring the legacy of Koo Nimo produced by the book artist Mary Hark as a tribute to a Ghanaian musician. Listen, listen is a visual interpretation of  Nimo’s ‘palmwine music’. Hark uses native materials such as maize, plantain leaves, and papyrus to make the paper which is printed in a letterpress studio in Minnesota and finally bound in her own studio in Madison, Wisconsin.  The book incorporates recordings as well as prints by Ghanaian artist Atta Kwami.

‘Listen, listen’ fits into the library’s mission to collect a variety of artists’ books. Our artists’ books collection features personal, cultural, and political statements made by international artists working in a book or book-like format. For more information on this collection, look here:

Listen, listen fits into the library’s mission to collect a variety of artists’ books. Our artists’ books collection features personal, cultural, and political statements made by international artists working in a book or book-like form.

Embroidery as artist’s tool

Candace Hicks. Common threads

The Fine Arts Library recently acquired a unique artist’s book made from fabric with decorations and text created exclusively through embroidery.  Candace Hicks is a Texas-based artist who elevates a common copy book by recreating it with stitchery.  Common threads (2011) is one of several sewn books Hicks has made in recent years.

For more information about this and other books in our artists’ book collection, please contact us.


Exhibition Catalog as Artist’s Book

Byars catalogue

Here are photographs of the unassuming and enigmatic interior of a recently acquired 1977 James Lee Byars catalogue, issued to accompany an exhibition at the Städtisches Museum Mönchengladbach in Germany.  A gold box contains a sheet of crumpled black tissue paper with “TH FI TO IN PH” printed in gold, short for ’THe FIrst TOtally INterrogativ PHilosophy’.  Johannes Cladders’ essay is printed inside the box.

Byars’ object is merely the latest addition to our collection of over a dozen Mönchengladbach catalogs edited or assembled by Cladders in the 1970s and issued in challenging formats such as boxes, scrolls, and portable cases and featuring the work of iconic conceptual artists like Marcel Broodthaers, Giulio Paolini, Daniel Buren, and Jannis Kounellis.

Analytical art

Who knew, in the summer of 1971, that the newest hotbed of art theory would be born, and grow up, in the villages of Chipping Norton and Leamington Spa and the industrial city of Coventry, twenty miles apart from each other and over one hundred miles northwest of London, the supposed center of British contemporary art? For it was there that David Rushton and Philip Pilkington – first-year students in the Fine Arts course at the Faculty of Art & Design, Lancaster Polytechnic – published the two (and only) issues of Analytical Art, rare copies of which have just now entered the Fine Arts Library collection.

Rushton and Pilkington quickly dissolved their work into the larger mission of ‘Art & Language’ group. (The entire text of the introduction to the last issue of the journal is: This is the final issue of Analytical Art. The editors will subsequently be publishing in Art & Language). Together with Terry Atkinson and most especially Charles Harrison they went on to make the discussion of conceptual art central to the critical dialogue of the seventies.


Unique photography book acquired

The Fine Arts Library recently acquired a limited edition publication by renowned Australian photojournalist Stephen Dupont.  Entitled Axe Me Biggie, a rendering of the Dari expression for “take my picture”, it includes ninety black and white Polaroid portrait photographs of Afghanis taken near the central bus station in Kabul, on one day in 2006.  These were selected from over 665 images in total; as part of the project each print was presented to the sitter and the negatives retained to make further reproductions.  Although several of these images have been exhibited and published before, this book presents the largest survey available to date.   This handmade book features images printed digitally on heavy photographic paper.

Dupont has been photographing in Afghanistan since 1993 and the portrait project compliments his more journalistic work in the area.   He has photographed in many war-torn parts of the world to date.  Dupont was the Peabody Museum’s Gardner fellow in 2010 and is currently photographing in Papua New Guinea for that project.

New York Art Book Fair

Burk Uzzle. A family named spot. New York : Five Ties, 2010.

Late last fall, I attended the New York Art Book Fair, sponsored by Printed Matter, a New York-based artists’ book cooperative. The fair featured over 150 artists and publishers and I thought it would provide an excellent opportunity to meet with people that my usual virtual contacts wouldn’t reach, and I was right. By the end of the fair, I had uncovered dozens of new artists and companies whose work deserved to be represented in our collection, like these charming examples.

We bought the work of numerous other artists in attendance; books by T.E. Ericsson, Joseph Grigley, and Michalis Pichler, among others, can now be found in the Fine Arts Library collection.

Jason Polan, The every piece of art in the Museum of Modern Art book. New York : self-published, 2009.

Artists’ Books from Wisconsin

A sample page spread from The Twelve Articles

The Fine Arts Library owns hundreds of artists’ books – works of art created as multiples in book form. There is no particular reason why the form should been more popular in any one part of the world than any other, so I found it interesting when we acquired a substantial number of them published by private presses in Stevens Point, Wisconsin.

From Brian Borchardt’s Seven Hills Press, we have Two Saints, a meditation on martyrdom and same-sex marriage and The Intrepid Ones about a community of men in Mexico who dress and act like women. Jeff Morin likes to juxtapose religious texts with sexual imagery. From his SailorBOY Press, we have Sacred Space, The Twelve Articles, and The Sacred Abecedarium.

The Fine Arts Library collects artists’ books in cooperation with other collections on campus such as the Houghton Library. All of our artists’ books are cataloged in the HOLLIS catalog.  Patrons interested in consulting works from the collection are encouraged to visit the library in the Littauer Center building.