Altered Books and the Book Object Defined

Corneille, Moliere, Racine Eight French Classic Plays Lyons and Searles (2 of 2)

Charity Appel Wheelock, 1996 (Brookfield, Vermont)

Artist Books as a distinct medium within the fine arts arguably began to come into their own as the evolutionary product of a long line of development including fine bookbinding, papermaking, livre d’ artiste, and others, some time in the late 1950’s through the early 1960’s.  Artist Books-sensu strictu-represent an artwork that is created is a codiform or similar manner, because the artist determines that this is the most effective way to express the issues underlying this work.  Closely related to this category are the related forms of broadsides, zines, mail art, artist-created postage stamps and others.  Because of the traditional craft emphasis of book arts, the difficulty exhibiting this type of work, and the traditional market for artist books being libraries rather than museums and/or galleries, it has only been in the past decade or so that Artist Books have been accorded equal status critically and aesthetically with other art media.  These categories are ones that are represented in a very significant way within the collections of The Waskowmium.  Future shows will be based on some of these other categories.

This show exposes to two subsets of objects in this institution’s holdings that fall within these categories:  Altered Books & Book Objects.

Why I'm Late

Beatrice Coron (New York, New York)

An Altered Book is an existing, commercially produced book that is used as the substrate for the work of the artist(s).  Many times this work creates an object that is no longer functional as a book in the traditional sense.  Ofttimes, the original book becomes a sculptural object.  Sometimes, the artist is commenting on the book’s original meaning and the artwork is relational in some way.  This is not however, the case in the majority of such work, and the art simply is communicated over the original meaning in a manner that, depending upon the artist, ranges from symbiotic to highly parasitic.  Just as in nature, sometimes the art is in balance with its host (the original book), and sometimes, in order to develop properly, the art must destroy the host.

A Book Object is often a form of Altered Book, however, as the term is used here, it is intended to mean that the entire artwork was fabricated by the artist; that is, there is no existing externally created book upon which this work is based.  This work sometimes could be placed in other categories of work as well: collage, assemblage, constructions, mixed media, etc.  Quite often, it is the artist’s intent that helps to determine the way the particular work is perceived.  There is a wide array of objects in this category.  It is only after viewing many, many book objects, that one can get a sense of the continuity of this art form.
Thank you, and enjoy!

Mark Waskow