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Recent Acquisitions in Book Arts,
Fine Printing, and Artists’ Books

Special Collections and Archives have always been interested in the form of the book as a physical object and the ways in which authors, publishers, artists, and printers collaborate to create printed works, in large and small quantities. Artists’ books use the form of the codex book, sometimes quite loosely, to create interactive worlds and layers of meaning that require the reader to interact directly with the book-object in front of them to tease out those meanings and connections. They are often handmade, combine multiple processes of printing and illustration, and are produced in limited or numbered editions.

It is a very different experience to work your way forward, backward, and occasionally sideways through an artist’s book than to view a framed and matted piece of art that hangs on a gallery wall. Interactive bookworks such as those on display in the gallery create a more intimate connection between the artist/creator and the viewer/reader, who must touch the book, turn its pages, and interact closely with it.

All the items on display are new to Furman over the past two years or so and hopefully will provide ample fodder for class discussions and presentations in the decades to come. The volatile political climate in the United States over the past three years has, unsurprisingly, been of great generative interest to artists of all stripes. The incendiary language, crass political discourse, overt displays of racism and misogyny by our elected leaders, and environment of racial injustice, #metoo, and other movements have provoked reactions, commentary, and critique in the form of art – including book arts – in ways not seen since perhaps the Reaganite ’80s. The shifting racial and ethnic demographics of the United States, and all that this shift entails, has also been of prime interest to many book artists who have attempted to document and consider the changes taking place in our country. Works addressing these topics can be found throughout the galleries.

Some artists in this exhibit mine family histories and look at personal experiences as a way of understanding the world; others choose to experiment with book forms and genres, twisting them in playful ways to critique what we think a book is, and how it normally operates, thus considering larger questions of how written and visual texts create meaning, and how a history of ideas is transmitted through textual forms.

We are quite aware that these books are meant to be handled and worked through individually; housing them in cases behind glass defeats one of their primary purposes. We welcome and encourage visitors to the Special Collections reading room to examine these and other examples of artists’ books, book art, and fine printing in our collections any time we are open.

—Jeffrey Makala, Special Collections and Archives