While the history of book making is long and varied, the notion of the Artists’ Book as an art object in its own right is a relatively new phenomenon, starting in the early 20th century. This category is not books about art, but rather are books that ARE art.
The category is hard to precisely define because it inherently has the ability to incorporate almost all materials, techniques and formats available to contemporary artists. A small sampling would include offset printing, zerox, risograph, lithography, photography, collage, papermaking, stamp printing, drawing, and embroidery.
In addition to a vastly democratic utilization of processes and materials, Artists’ Books are often hybrids of professional approaches; they can combine not only studio practices but graphic design, product design, etc. Artists’ Books can be made in an edition or single format. They can be bound or be a loose collection of papers. They can be books, scrolls, portfolios. The options are truly limitless, and this is the heart of their unique place in the art world.
“Artists' books are part of the palette of contemporary artists just like performance, prints, or video, etc. The book arts are a craft/guild movement and related to the folk, fine and commercial and mass publications industry, they have little relation to recent contemporary art practice.”
Artist Marshall Weber, interviewed by the Victoria & Albert Museum, London
Brooke Alexander has a long history of acquiring, producing and exhibiting artist’s books. In 1998 the Editions & Artists’ Book Fair was founded by Brooke Alexander, Susan Inglett and Printed Matter. In 1999, Brooke Alexander presented the exhibition Die Bücher der Künstler, a retrospective of 30 years of artists’ book production in Germany (with both German and international artists). As one of the major print publishers in the United States, Brooke Alexander has published projects with artists such as Annette Lemieux, Alex Katz, Sol LeWitt and Raymond Pettibon.
Brooke Alexander and David Zwirner co-published the Plots On Loan project with Raymond Pettibon in 2000. The project consisted of three parts: Plots On Loan, a bound artists’ book containing 72 original lithographs by Pettibon; Plots On Loan I, a print portfolio containing a selection of 10 images from the book; and Plots On Loan II, a print portfolio containing a selection of 6 larger images from the book.
Please double click on the image to view detail shots of each book
Simply stated, artists’ books are works of art in book (or book-like) form. An artists’ book may be a unique, one-of-a-kind piece but it might also be produced in an edition...It might incorporate unusual materials like soap, food, or LEGOS...it might also be a scroll, set of computer punch cards, or sculptural piece. This wide variety of form makes a single definition hard to come by but in almost every case, the appearance and production of the work is determined by the artist.
-Otis College of Art and Design Artists’ Book Guide