A Survey of Contemporary California Artists’ Books
At a time when mainstream publishing houses are questioning the very need for books published in traditional, physical formats, artists who create books continue to creatively push the limits of the genre. Made primarily by Bay Area artists, the books included in Rebound survey a variety of formats and display a wide range of processes that currently interest the contemporary artist engaged in making artist’ books.
In Northern California we are fortunate to have a vibrant community of artists interested in the book arts. This exhibition surveys the astounding variety of artists who have tried their hands at the art and craft of bookmaking. Why have all of these serious and talented bookmakers taken on this task? Quite simply, because books make magnificent art.
The exhibition focuses primarily on handmade books - that is, books which are crafted by the hand of the artist at each step, whether it is the technical aspects of printing, the making of the paper, or the reproduction of the art. Handmade books are, at their best, like great opera. Everything must feel right to the audience and the artist. If the soprano can’t act, even if her voice is fantastic, the opera loses part of its appeal. If the stage set is not beautiful and convincing, or the orchestra misses its mark, another component falls short. The art of bookmaking is very similar. Handmade artists’ books - when well constructed, bound, covered, and including a message inside - are art of the highest order, craft at its best, and the ensemble performance of many working parts.
Because handmade books are not easy to display, they get scant and narrow consideration from the Fine Arts world. Too bad for us all, since there is so much compelling work being done right here in the Bay Area. Artists’ books deserve a greater place and following; I can only hope that this exhibition makes our museum patrons want to see more, buy more, and exhibit more of these unique treasures.
- Simon Blattner, Curator
This exhibition would not be possible were it not for the intellectual support of The San Francisco Center for the Book and their kind gifts of space and time. In addition, their work supporting the book arts has been crucial for Northern California artists to make better art and books. Special thanks to Colleen Terry, Curatorial Assistant at the Achenbach Collection at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, whose critical eye and memory helped me make many of the exhibition choices. Thanks also to her colleague Victoria Binder, Assistant Paper Conservator at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, for her skill in installing the exhibition, and to Karen Breuer and the rest of her staff at the Achenbach for their generous loans. Special thanks to the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art Exhibition Coordinator, Twyla Ruby, and the rest of the SVMA staff, especially our indefatigable museum Director Kate Eilertsen, who not only kept my spirits up by telling me I could do this but also gave me a chance to fulfill my dream. And finally, thanks to Stan Abercrombie and Paul Vieyra, the exhibition designers, who gave us all the chance to really see what is not always easy to view and made it look so easy.