What are artists’ books?

A few people had questions about my artist’s book, “No Mind”, soon on exhibition at The Beaney Museum in UK. I think it’s important to understand first what artists’ books are, so I’ll try to do that in this post.

Artists’ books are books made or conceived by artists. There are fine artists who make books and book artists who produce work exclusively in that medium, as well as illustrators, typographers, writers, poets, book binders, printers and many others who work collaboratively or alone to produce artists’ books. Many artists’ books are self-published, or are produced by small presses usually in limited editions.

Artists’ books that maintain the traditional structure of a book are often known as book art or bookworks, while those that reference the shape of a book are known as book objects. The artist’s book is by nature, and for the reasons just mentioned more likely to be non-traditional in format and structure. In fact, it is almost expected that artists deviate as far as they dare from the traditional form entering into the realm of sculpture.

Artists have been associated with the written word since illuminated manuscripts were developed in the medieval period. William Blake (1757 -1827) made some of the first artists’ books, among them The Marriage of Heaven and Hell and Songs of Innocence. In these, Blake wrote the text, made the etchings of the text and illustrations, printed, and then hand-colored the pages. The only thing Blake did not do it seems was bind them. Blake was far ahead of his time. The artist’s book did not reappeared until this century and was adopted as a format by the Futurists, DADA, and the Constructivists among others.

Contemporary artists’ books are noteworthy for their many different forms, they can be made of text alone, images only, or both.

In my latest solo exhibition in Busan in 2015 I showed a few limited edition artists’ books made of etchings and woodcuts (photos below). In my next post I will talk specifically about my book “No Mind” and how it is relevant to the exhibition “Prescriptions” at the Beaney Museum (April 21st to August 14th, 2016).

Artists' books (made of etchings) on display at Praum Gallery during my Solo Exhibition in 2015

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If you’re interested in learning more about artists’ books, this Victoria & Albert Museum link has wide and fascinating information.

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