Wake the Form: Artists’ Books in Context

June 8 - October 20, 2017
Hirshland Exhibition Gallery
Carl A. Kroch Library

While frequently familiar in form, artists’ books can be hard to define. They are works of art that push the boundaries of traditional reading while maintaining the intimate relationship that a book fosters between object and reader. While artists’ books often employ the traditional crafts of bookmaking, such as letterpress printing, bookbinding, papermaking, and printmaking, there are no rules for their construction. Structures can include decks of cards, postcards, flip books, tunnel books, sculptures, puzzles, scrolls, and, of course, the standard codex. In some of the most successful examples, form and content work harmoniously together to express the artists’ ideas. They are frequently influenced by, or seek to comment on, the artistic, cultural, and political movements of the times in which they were created.

Wake the Form explores the modern artist book and its lineage through selections from Cornell’s collections of artist books, rare books, children’s books, games and archives. Placing such seemingly disparate objects in close proximity allows the viewer to make connections between the past and the present, blurring the lines between art and authorship. This exhibit demonstrates how book objects are not passive, but require our engagement in order to be fully experienced. We must participate, activate – we must first wake the form.

This exhibition is funded through the generous support of the Stephen E. ’58 MBA ’59 and Evalyn Edwards ’60 Milman Exhibition Fund and features donations of books and prints by Paul ’60 and Helen ’62 Anbinder.

Top image: Artists’ Book, This Past Winter, by Sue Huggins Leopard. Photograph by Steve Baldwin/Studio Astute.