Art that uses books

The book “as object” has expanded into conceptual art using books, transforming books, reintroducing books, to make statements about books and reading, and about art. Thirty years ago, my days of graduate school, the book as object I encountered, discussions and slide shows on the early “artists’ books” and unusual forms of book binding, or as written about by Paul Valery, was an entirely different kind of thought. Or was it? Does making art from books, cut into and opened and stacked or simply disfigured with varnish or paint make them all the more provocative? Does this art move books as cultural icons out of the realm of the libraries left behind?

There are many stages or places the book as object has been throughout history. The dissemination of “information” during the industrial revolution produced many poorly made books and books for the masses using some ingenious methods of using cloth to imitate leather with decoration and printing or hot stamping that remain to this day and are collected and treasured by some. Yellow backs or mustard plasters are an example. What don’t we owe all those craftsmen and publishers that got the word out in whatever form, be it newspapers, pamphlets or deluxe editions?

Maybe by making art that uses books or makes statements about books is one way of bringing our attention to the centuries of recorded information made by hands and eyes, designed by the hearts and minds of man.


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