Cognitive Distance: the Bookworks and Thoughtforms of Timothy C. Ely


Exhibition dates: Saturday, October 26, 2022 - Sunday, January 8, 2023

Exhibition curator: Jennie Hinchcliff, SFCB Exhibitions and Events Manager

Compelling, contemplative, and visionary: these are words that have been used to describe the work of artist and bookbinder Timothy C. Ely. Showcasing approximately forty manuscript books, drawings and prints created by Ely over the past fifty years, Cognitive Distance: the Bookworks and Thoughtforms of Timothy C. Ely introduced gallery visitors to Ely’s extraordinary version of world-building. Drawing from traditional fine binding, printmaking, and manuscript books, Timothy C. Ely has developed his own hybrid ways of creating work, all the while remaining true to his artistic vision. The techniques and materials of fine bookbinding are immediately apparent in his work; by pushing these traditional aspects in new directions, the resulting works inspire and astonish.           


above, left: Cognitive Distance, Books 1-4 (2022) :: above, right: Key (2020)

Exhibition curator Jennie Hinchcliff states: “For those arriving at Timothy Ely’s work for the first time, the experience can only be remarkable: visually, materially, and conceptually. There is an undeniable sense of the artist’s reverence for materials, structure, and the history of the book imbued within each volume, print, and drawing. San Francisco Center for the Book is honored to exhibit such a large number of Timothy Ely’s works together for the first time and share his work with a wider audience.”

Exhibited works included books, drawings, prints, and related ephemera, including early career work; five new books completed by the artist in 2022 debuted as part of this exhibition. Artworks were generously loaned by The Ely / Marra Collection (Colfax, WA), Doug and Judith Garnett (Portland, OR), and Letterform Archive (San Francisco, CA).


above, left: Obelisk Stare (2016) :: above, right: Cognitive Distance (2022)




This exhibition is made possible with the generous support of the following organizations and individuals: Anonymous | California Arts Council | Grants For The Arts | The Kahle Austin Foundation

LENDERS TO THE EXHIBITION: The Ely / Marra Collection | Doug and Judith Garnet | Letterform Archive

EXHIBITION CATALOG: a full-color exhibition catalog with essays by Jennie Hinchcliff (Exhibitions Manager, San Francisco Center for the Book), Dr. Amanda C. R. Clark (Dean of the Library & Special Programs at Whitworth University, Spokane, WA), and Timothy C. Ely is be available for purchase from the San Francisco Center for the Book.