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What is an Artist's Book?
The simple spontaneous answer is not correct.
It is not a book about art or artists 

Judith Margolis, Art editor of NASHIM: A Journal of Jewish Women's Studies and Gender Issues, Uni. of
Indiana Press, USA, reflects on what an Artist's Book is in issue #8 Fall 2004 article THE PAINTED WORD:


    The combination of visual imagery and printed or painted words constitutes a crossing of aesthetic borders
that figures in much important artwork being done by contemporary artists all over the world..
     Some of these works fits into the category known as “artist's books” - not a book about art, but art that IS a
book. “Book art” is defined in the loosest sense of the word; it can take the form of a container for text, ideas,
and/or images; of something that has a sequential narrative of words or pictures; or - in the form most
removed from its original function - of sculptural installations, often made from found and recycled materials,
in which books or other printed matter are used as raw material for environmental structures and objects.
     The book art movement has proliferated into a vibrant array of artworks that eschews the framed formality
of “wall art.” It requires the viewer to engage interactively by reading, handling, or walking through the artist's
creations.
     Some artist's books are unique, one-of-a-kind objects, but the abundance of modern photographic, copying,
and printing technologies has created the means for an individual to publish her own multiple edition. The
availability of very cheap or free publications has also expanded the possibilities available to the book artist
by providing raw material for book related installations and sculptural work.

In her thesis Artists' Books: Conveying meaning in a non-traditional format, Waterfort Inst. of Techn. , 2009
Shirley Louise Atkinson Greer argues

  
  ... that artists's books provide the reader/viewer with knowledge and meaning even when the normal
expectations of what a book might oiffer are not met. An examination of the qualities of artists' books that
differentiate them from traditional books reveals a broad spectrum of concepts being explored by artists
working with this medium.

     She looks at the ongoing debate surrounding the definition of artists' books. She quotes Janis Ekland from a
paper presented in Moscow 1999:
      There is no agreement among critics, curators and writers as to the definition of an "artists book". Much
ink has been spilled in the struggle to find properly inclusive terminology for the convergence of art, language,
and printing technologies,

     
... but quote also an opposite view by Johanna Drucker in The Century of Artists' Books, 2004, defining
artists' books thus:
     The artists' book properly defined, is an independently produced artistic vision in book form that makes use
of the book as form not just incidentally, but significantly.

     This is a narrow limiting definition, and Shirley Greer dissociates herself from this when she in her conclusion
writes:
     This dissertation begins with a look at the on-going debate surrounding a clear definition for artists' books.
I would suggest that the lack of a clear definition has left the field open for artists and institutions to freely
explore structures and concepts within the book arts medium as indeed they have done.

 

... we could also "google" - and ask the question to the all-embracing Google.

About Artists' Books - From the Smithsonian Libraries, Washington D.C. USA:

      But what, exactly, is an artist’s book? You may not be able to tell just from looking at the object itself!

      The simple answer to someone not familiar with artists’ books might be: art in book form. But they are not quite
so simple.

      .....

      What truly makes an artist’s book is the artist’s intent, and artists have used the book as inspiration in a myriad
of ways and techniques, from traditional to the experimental. The book could be made through fine press printing
or hand-crafted, the pages illustrated with computer-generated images or cheap photocopies; books became sculptures,
tiny and gargantuan; books were sliced up and reconfigured, made from all kinds of materials with unconventional
objects incorporated, in unique or limited editions, or produced in multiple copies. With all sorts of ideas behind them,
artists continue to challenge the idea, content and structure of the traditional book.

     

This website is based on Judith Margolis's and Shirley Greers open definitions. Joanna Drucker's narrow
definition would in fact exclude close to half of the Artist's Books presented at the website

 

 

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