Some recent book arts acquisitions

Through the generosity of Susan and William Hogue, we have been able (for several years running now!) to acquire a number of interesting artists’ books, examples of contemporary book arts, or other “multiples” or “bookworks” to add to our collections. I deliberately do not want to classify these items into a particular category, as the boundaries of what constitutes an “artists’ book” versus a work of “fine printing,” a “multiple,” or something else are all fairly fluid, depending upon the work in question and how we try to understand its place in a growing body of experimental and innovative work being produced by authors, printers, illustrators and artists, who often collaborate to create projects such as these.

Suffice to say that we are presently building a very interesting collection of contemporary works that:

  • engages with and challenge the nature of the book itself, in all its constituent parts
  • further pushes the experimental boundaries of existing works and major authors in our collections, both visually and textually
  • often involves multiple artistic processes perfected in the 15th, 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries, oftentimes all combined in the same work

Here are a few examples of some recent acquisitions:

Above, Scott McCarney’s State of the Union: Live Evil Vile (2006) (on the lower right) is a meditation on state of the union addresses by George W. Bush and was created with a color photocopier, duct tape, Photoshopped tv screenshots and use of the Internet Anagram Server.

Above and left, the cardboard box contains a sampler of works created by members of the International Society of Copier Art (ISCA) from 1986-2003. There are at least 20 small works in it, all different, and comprising a number of different book structures. In the foreground is Maureen Cummins’s remarkable Anatomy of Insanity from 2008, where she took 19th century patient intake records from the McLean Hospital outside of Boston, sorted them by gender, and came to some very interesting conclusions in this book designed to resemble a set of patient medical charts.

We’ve just acquired Karen Kunc’s Fractured Terrain (Blue Heron Press, 2011), one of 25 copies of a beautiful work that combines excerpts of works from Umberto Eco and Denise Levertov on the natural and built environment with Kunc’s multiple illustration processes (woodcut, polymer plate, etching and aquatint) to memorialize the victims of natural disasters.

Allison Weiner’s Rabbitpox (SF Center for the Book, 2009) is a darkly humorous meditation, with great retro-style illustrations, on threats posed by the creation, distribution, and immoral use of new viruses by hostile governments.

Ellen Knudson’s Wild Girls Redux: An Operator’s Manual (Crooked Letter Press, 2009) has won a number of awards and been in several recent book arts shows and exhibits, including last year’s Southeast Association for Book Arts juried show here at USC’s McMaster Gallery.

And finally, Guillermo Gomez-Pena’s Codex Espangliensis: From Columbus to the Border Patrol is a seminal work of the 1990s that combines sixteenth- and seventeenth-century accounts and illustrations of some of the first encounters with indigenous peoples of the New World with contemporary pop culture and comics/comix imagery related to Mexico, corporate culture, and many other things to create an alternative history of Western exploration and settlement, one primary from an indigenous peoples’ perspective.

Brief descriptions and static photos such as these hardly do these works justice. They each have their greatest impact when they are explored and worked through individually. Each one can be requested and examined in the reading room any time we’re open.


About Jeffrey Makala

The Irvin Department of Rare Books & Special Collections is located in the Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library at the University of South Carolina. The department preserves and makes accessible rare materials and special research collections supporting teaching and research across a wide range of disciplines.
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