The artist's book - a format which is not quite a book and not quite an artwork, but a kind of hybrid entity - is essentially a French affair. Jacques Doucet, from whose Paris-based collection all the works in this show come, was certainly an avid collector, and this display of 125 French books, as well as numerous works on paper by the artists involved, consists of only a small part of his unrivalled collection.
The works here divide into those where the artist and the writer/ poet agree to conform to the customary spatial decorum of the folio page - image here in its own space, text clearly separate there - and those where some kind of assault on this division has been launched. An example of the latter is the extraordinary collaboration between the poet Blaise Cendrars and the painter Sonia Delaunay from 1913 called La prose du Transsiberien et la petite Jehanne de France. This work, printed on a 200cm long sheet, narrates in multi-coloured and different typographies the train journey from Siberia to Paris of Cendrars and his somewhat tiresome girlfriend, Jehanne, all accompanied by a rainbow of coloured swashes provided by Delaunay.
Then there is Marcel Duchamp's enigmatic, La mariee mise a nu par ses celibataires, meme (1934), known more pragmatically as La boite verte (The Green Box), which comprises facsimile reproductions of the loose pages, scraps of paper, drawings, and photographs that the artist accumulated while working on his famous work of the same name. …