Artists' Books as Catalyst

Article excerpt

ARTISTS' BOOKS CONFERENCE

WELLESLEY COLLEGE, WELLESLEY, MA

JUNE 15-18, 2005

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From June 15-18, 2005, Wellesley College hosted the Artists' Books Conference (ABC), bringing together librarians, artists, curators, private collectors, professors and book dealers. Over 200 people attended this four-day event that covered topics such as collecting artists' books, the business of artists producing these books and related pedagogical aspects of this genre.

This is at least the third independently organized conference on artists' books to be held in the past two years. Wells College in Aurora, New York, organized a symposium titled "Matter & Spirit: The Genesis & Evolution of the Book," held from April 29-May 2, 2004. More recently, the Southern California Chapter of the Art Libraries Society of North America organized a conference held in Los Angeles, from May 21-24, 2005: "Artists Books: Creating, Collecting, Cataloging, Conserving, Collaborating." At ABC, less emphasis was placed on critical analysis of topics; rather, most presentations retained an informal, conversational style that aided in sharing ideas and comments. Major issues were raised about the current genre of artists' books, the lack of critical writings about it and the profound challenge of expanding the artists' book community.

The opening keynote speaker, Betty Bright, founded the Minnesota Center for Book Arts (MCBA) in 1985. Her book No Longer Innocent: the Book Arts in America, 1960 to 1980 will be published by Granary Press in September 2005. Bright's presentation, "To Have and To Hold: Why We Need Book Art," focused on historical aspects of private and institutional collecting in this country and the role of librarians and curators. She discussed the formation of early institutional library collections, notably those at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Atlanta College, the Museum of Modern Art and Virginia Commonwealth University. Bright divided the history of artists' books into four categories: fine press, deluxe editions, sculptural books and multiples. Increased awareness of archival materials in the production of artists' books was a noted topic of discussion.

The panel "Collecting in Private and Public Institutions" was moderated by Sandra Kroupa of the University of Washington, Seattle. The panelists represented both private and public institutional libraries, including Claremont Colleges, Rhode Island School of Design, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Boston Public Library. …