May 18, 2001
Idea or object? Book or artwork? It�s all in the mind�s eye. Now until July 1 come to the Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County and decide for yourself. A major exhibit showcasing the diversity and quality of the Library�s artists� books is on display in the Art & Music Department� (Main Library, South Building, 3rd Floor).
The exhibit examines various definitions of modern day artists� books as well as how the artist shaped the book into a deeper means of expression. Over 60 local, national and international works are on display including: Index by Andy Warhol; Store Days: Documents from the Store, 1961,and Ray Gun Theater, 1962, by Claes Oldenburg; Snow by Diter Rot; Fantastic Architecture by Dick Higgins; Twentieth Century by Carolyn Whitesel; and Hand Leaf by Kate Kern; and a special display of work by Los Angeles artist David Bunn.�
The exhibit also traces the history of this art form from early 15th Century adaptations from German artist, Albrecht D�rer�s, Apocalypse. By adding his initial signature, �A.D.,� hebrought about a bold new tradition that gave recognition to the individual creator. Another seminal influence in this field was William Blake, who revolutionized the concept of the book in the late 1700s. He developed new ways of printing that prefigured the books of the 1960s, where the artist becomes his or her own publisher.
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As this unification of text and image gained acceptance over the past few centuries in the print world, it set the groundwork for a new genre�the fine art book or livre d�artiste. Once innovations in modern day typography, photography, and technology advanced in the 1960s, artists� books gained a foothold in the contemporary art world as well. Through every possible shape, form, and mode of production, artists� books became works of art meant to be interpreted like paintings or sculptures.
In the late 1950s, Alice S. Plaut, then head of the Library�s Art & Music Department, recognized the importance of this burgeoning new art form. It led her to travel abroad to acquire some of these materials for the collection. In 1968, The Plaut Fund, named in her honor, was set up for the purpose of expanding the Library�s artists� books collection.
Today, over four decades later, the ever-growing collection now numbers well over a hundred selections. While many of these works are by regional artists, the Library has also acquired a variety of national and international works. Among the most notable recent additions is Train Log by Philadelphia-based Hedi Kyle, one of the most influential book artists in the world of contemporary bookmaking.
Other outstanding purchases are the three sets of artists� books by David Bunn, whose work is currently on view at the Contemporary Arts Center and at the Public Library. Bunn�s work fuses his obsession with rapidly disappearing card catalog systems and an aesthetic appreciation for both the physical cards and the information they communicate. He juxtaposes cards from discarded library catalogs to create poems comprised of only book titles, bibliographic entries, and the like.
Information about events at the Main Library and 41 branch libraries is available on the Internet site: www.CincinnatiLibrary.org.