Sunday, August 10, 2008

Artists' Books from the Home Museum, FAB Gallery, August 5 - 30, 2008

Curated by Megan Bertagnolli and based on the collection of Francis Brown and the gorgeous findings within the U of A Bruce Peel Special Collection, Artists' Books gathers some of the finest specimens of artist books made in the last fifty years in their original fragility.

As a far more transient and adaptable mode of creation and expression, the artist book is at best a raw snapshot of the artist's mind at work through both image and text. Wit, scrawls, personality, and presence permeates each and every single piece, presented in the usual glass cases as well as flattened out along the walls, a laudable move in making the words far more readable and each work less object-orientated by stressing its potential for engagement.

Scanning piece to piece, it's evident that most conceptual artists have at one point or another made an artist book: Joseph Kosuth, Yoko Ono, Bruce Nauman, Joseph Beuys, Sol Lewitt; but my personal favorites were from Brown himself and Lucy Lippard, where the banality of formal text, in forms of bureaucratic compositions and regulations, becomes a play of visual poetics. With the same playful dissidence as poet Ted Berrigan's faux interview with John Cage or the paratextual play of Ring Lardner, Francis Brown over throws the authority of the written word and wrestles it down to the level of absurdity, crashing down with it meaning, language, and structure.

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