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

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

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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).


Event Dates

May 3, 2023 to June 18, 2023

Event Type

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