Craft & Conceptual Art: Reshaping the Legacy of Artists' Books

Craft & Conceptual Art: Reshaping the Legacy of Artists’ Books

Exhibition dates: Saturday, April 15 – Sunday, June 18, 2023

Curated by Megan N. Liberty

In the history of art, craft, and conceptual art are often placed at odds. Craft emphasizes the materiality of the object, while conceptual art emphasizes the dematerialization of the object. But artists’ books offer a unique merging of these premises in the book’s status as a conceptual, tactile, and often ephemeral object. While early exhibitions and writing on artists’ books maintained both these practices, the history of artists’ books has since shifted, primitizing only the democracy of the genre and marginalizing expensive, unique, and sculptural bookworks.

Craft & Conceptual Art: Reshaping the Legacy of Artists’ Books focuses on the intertwined legacies of book art centers across the US whose primary goal has been to teach the craft practices of book arts, as well as other institutions focused on distribution and collecting. Tracing the foundation and production of book art organizations across the US—including Center for Book Arts in 1974, Printed Matter and Franklin Furnace in 1976, Minnesota Center for Book Arts in 1983, and San Francisco Center for the Book in 1996—this exhibition shows craft and conceptual art not to be opposites, but rather two ends of a spectrum of book art practices.

The exhibition focuses on book art production beginning in the mid-1960s that was exhibited from 1973-1996, drawing a—albeit zig-zag—line from the first cited US exhibition of artists’ books at Moore College to the founding of San Francisco Center for the Book, charting an expanding definition, practice, and legacy of bookmaking across the US. A range of artists are exhibited; leaning heavily on the archives and exhibition history of institutions devoted to craft and conceptual art, Craft & Conceptual Art revisits who and what was considered an “artists’ book.” In doing so, the exhibition sheds new light on both ends of the sliding scale between craft and conceptual art, allowing us to better understand the growing field of artists’ book production.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog featuring additional contributions by Sur Rodney (Sur), David Senior, Kayleigh Perkov, and Tara Aisha Willis, and a selection of reprinted historical texts. This catalog can be purchased at SFCB’s online store.

Craft and Conceptual Art was organized by Center for Book Arts and travels to San Francisco from New York City. This exhibition is made possible by generous support from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council, an award from Furthermore: a program of the J. M. Kaplan Fund, as well as Grants for the Arts (CA) and The Kahle Austin Foundation (CA).



ARTIST LIST: Harriet Bart :: Barton Lidice Beneš :: Helen M. Brunner :: Frances Butler :: Sas Colby :: Betsy Davids :: Agnes Denes :: Mirtha Dermisache :: Sylvia De Swaan :: Mindell Dubansky :: Philip Gallo :: Jacqui Holmes :: Berwyn Hung :: Gerald Jackson :: Susan E. King :: Alison Knowles :: Suzanne Lacy :: Ellen Lanyon :: Gordon Matta-Clark :: Richard Minsky :: Louise Neaderland :: Yoko Ono :: Benjamin Patterson :: Howardena Pindell :: Liliana Porter :: Ed Ruscha :: Lucas Samaras :: Carolee Schneemann :: Clarissa Sligh :: Barbara T. Smith :: Keith Smith :: Michelle Stuart :: Melody Sumner :: Cecilia Vicuña :: Reginald Walker

LENDERS TO THE EXHIBITION: Barbara T. Smith / The Box (Los Angeles) :: Betsy Davids :: Center for Book Arts (New York) :: Ed Ruscha :: Garth Greenan Gallery (New York) :: Gerald Jackson :: Herman B. Wells Library at University of Indiana (Bloomington, Indiana) :: K. Caraccio Printing Studio and Collection (New York) :: Lucas Samaras / Pace Prints Pace Gallery :: Megan N. Liberty :: Michelle Stuart :: Millard Sheets Library Special Collections :: Mindell Dubansky :: Minnesota Center for Book Arts Artist's Book Archive :: Otis College of Art and Design (Los Angeles) :: Richard Minsky :: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Library and Archives :: Sas Colby :: Special Collections & Fine Arts Library at Harvard University :: The James and Marilynn Alcott Library and Archives at Minnesota Center for Book Arts

CURATOR BIO: Megan N. Liberty is an arts writer, editor, and archivist based in Brooklyn who writes about artists’ books, ephemera, archives, and other multidisciplinary meetings of text and image. She is the Art Books section editor at the Brooklyn Rail and co-founder of the Book Art Review. Her writing appears regularly on Hyperallergic and in ArtReview, and has also been published in, Art in America, Frieze, NY Review of Books Daily, LA Review of Books, White Review, Art in Print, and elsewhere. She has led and participated in public conversations on artists’ books and publishing with the Brooklyn Rail, Contemporary Artist Book Conference, Hill Art Foundation, and Miriam Gallery, and teaches workshops for early career artists on the practical and conceptual importance of self-archiving. She was a 2019-20 AICA/USA and Creative Capital/The Andy Warhol Foundation’s Arts Writing Workshop participant, and has an MA in Art History from the Courtauld Institute of Art, London and a BA in English from Dickinson College, PA.