Possibilities: When Artists' Books Were Young

Possibilities: When Artists’ Books Were Young :: Kathleen Walkup, curator

Exhibition dates: THIS EXHIBITION HAS PASSED (February 11 - May 1, 2022)

Possibilities: When Artists’ Books Were Young focuses on the genesis of artists’ books as examined through the lenses of gender and inclusion. By highlighting the critical role that women, including women of color, played in the definition, development and curation of artists’ books and exploring the challenges of inclusion and diversity, Possibilities works to re-focus our understanding of the time when artists’ books were coming into their own. Exhibited items include rarely seen exhibition catalogues and posters from early artists’ books shows as well as trailblazing works by creators from the 1970s through the 1990s.

The decade of the 1970s witnessed a broad range of disruptions to the old order, none more significant that second-wave feminism, which brought with it powerful demands by women for a place at the table. For artists, the demands included representation in galleries, museums, textbooks, history and the canon. Three new institutions — the Woman’s Building (Los Angeles), Women’s Studio Workshop, and Visual Studies Workshop (both in upstate New York)—formed separately to challenge traditional academic approaches. 

Curator Kathleen Walkup asks: "What led so many women to books? While there are many pathways, some aspects of the medium help provide a more general answer. The book format is familiar, un-intimidating, inexpensive to make relative to most other mediums and has the ability to be both intimate and widely broadcast. Books suggest authority; their makers are recognized by having their work in circulation, on shelves, in library catalogues or bookshops. They can be produced as unique objects or in limited or open editions." Exhibited together, these experimental works capture the zeitgeist of early artists' books, their creators, and the institutions which fostered both.


ARTISTS IN THE EXHIBITION: Adrian Piper | Agnes Denes | Alison Knowles | Bisa Washington | Bonnie Gordon | Carolee Schneemann | Clarissa Sligh | Cynthia Marsh | Dorothy Ianonne | Erica Van Horn | Hanne Darboven | Janet Zweig | Joan Lyons | Kumi Korf and Emoretta Yang | Linn Underhill | Madeline Gins | Martha Wilson | Mimi Smith | Miriam Schapiro | Paula Hocks | Rachel Youdelman | Sas Colby | Sheila Levrant de Bretteville | Sonia Sheridan | Susan E. King | Suzanne Lacy | Tatana Kellner | Terry Braunstein | Tomie Arai | Warja Lavater |

LENDERS TO THE EXHIBITION: Center for Book Arts (New York, NY) | Clarissa Sligh | Emoretta Yang | F.W. Olin Library / Center for the Book, Mills College (Oakland, CA) | Joan Lyons | Kathleen Walkup | Kathy Barr | Kumi Korf | Martha Wilson | Millard Sheets Library, Otis College of Art & Design (Los Angeles, CA) | Sheila Levrant de Bretteville | Tatana Kellner | Terry Braunstein | Tomie Arai | Visual Studies Workshop (Rochester, NY)


SFCB would like to thank the following patrons and lenders for their support of SFCB’s exhibition program:

Anonymous | California Arts Council | Grants For The Arts | The Kahle Austin Foundation

EXHIBITION CATALOG: a full-color exhibition catalog is available via our online store. This catalog was written by Kathy Walkup and contains essays by Joan Lyons and Martha Wilson. Supplementary materials by Lucy Lippard, Joan Hugo, Judith Hoffberg, Susan E. King, Warja Lavater, Nashormeh N.R. Wilkie, and Faith Ringgold in collaboration with Clarissa Sligh.