Museum Home Past Exhibitions The Artist Turns to the Book

May 24–September 11, 2005 at the Getty Center

Figured Silks / Korf and Yang
Figured Silks: Part One, Silk and Secrecy (detail), Kumi Korf and Emoretta Yang, 1985
learn_more See the back-page opening of this book.

Artists around the world began making books as an art form in the second half of the 20th century. Early 20th-century avant-garde artists worked with books to disseminate the ideals of their movements. But it wasn't until mid-century that artists began to experiment with innovative combinations of images, text, and format, sometimes creating single works and at other times publishing multiple copies. In the 1960s, for example, Edward Ruscha quickly gained an underground following in Southern California with his inexpensive self-published conceptual books.

This exhibition features works from the Research Library at the Getty Research Institute, which holds over 5,000 artists' books and several artists' archives. Many of these books are made by contemporary artists who work primarily in the book format. Others turn to the book from other media.

Ode to Grand Staircase / Chen and Tetenbaum
Ode to a Grand Staircase (for Four Hands), Julie Chen and Barbara Tetenbaum, 2001
interactive Watch this book unfold as you listen to the music that inspired the artists.

Artists who create books often pay homage to other artists by creating variations on books and works of art.

The work of French composer Erik Satie (1866–1925) inspired Julie Chen and Barbara Tetenbaum to create Ode to a Grand Staircase. Satie was an anti-romantic who claimed to enjoy measuring a sound much more than hearing it. His "silent librettos," written for his innovative minimalist musical composition "Marche du grand escalier," is the source for this book. As the viewer turns each leaf of the book, the French-door structure creates new windows that reveal portions of other leaves in an ever-changing vision.

Faster, Jim / Pettibon
Faster, Jim, Raymond Pettibon, 2002
learn_more See pages from the book by Todd Squires and Scott Grieger.
learn_more See a page from the book by Raymond Pettibon.

Raymond Pettibon planned the book Faster, Jim and invited seven other artists and master printer Ed Hamilton to collaborate. He envisioned it as an exploration of contemporary travel, each page created by a different artist.

Todd Squires' color photograph Highway One evokes Edward Ruscha's first artist's book—Twenty-Six Gasoline Stations of 1963. Opposite Squires's print is Scott Grieger's Thus Far and No Farther, which offers a comment on the hazards of travel. One of Raymond Pettibon's own contributions to the book depicts a fanciful UFO-like flying vehicle.

Hildegardis / Van Vliet
Hildegardis Circulus Sapientiae (Circle of Wisdom by Hildegard von Bingen), Claire Van Vliet, 2001
learn_more See a page from this book.

In text, color, and three-dimensional forms, Claire Van Vliet's book seen here evokes the visionary music and poetry of 12th-century visionary Hildegard von Bingen. From a young age Hildegard experienced brilliant visions and sounds, and carefully transcribed them. Included in the book is a CD of her music from her Symphony of the Harmony of Celestial Revelations, completing the auditory and visual experience.

Claire Van Vliet, working with Kate MacGregor, created vividly colored paintings from paper pulp that reflect upon Hildegard's visions. Van Vliet used accordion-folded pages with seven pop-ups, all held together in a handmade cloth slipcase.

Literary Constructivism / Karasik
Literary Constructivism
Box of artists' books designed by Mikhail Karasik, 2002–2003
learn_more See the contents of this box of books.

Artist Mikhail Karasik worked with contemporary Russian artists and poets—27 visual artists and 18 poets—to make four boxes of books. Several artists' books are housed in each box, all of which take the form of oversized matchboxes whose labels mimic those used in the early 20th century by the Gomeldrev match factory in the Soviet Union.

Each box of books draws from a different Russian artistic source. The books in Russian Dada echo techniques of early Russian avant-garde artists. Those in Oberiu Box recall the 1920s absurdist traditions of the OBERIU movement (OBERIU stands for Unification of Real Art). Books in The Leningrad Literary Underground consider how early 20th-century artists used found photographs to resurrect the remains of lost time. And the books in Literary Constructivism explore the affinity between today's artists and the Russian Constructivists, who worked in the Soviet Union 75 years ago.

Anansi Company / King and Fisher
Anansi Company: A Collection of Thirteen Hand-Made Wire and Card Rod-Puppets Animated in Colour and Verse, Ronald King and Roy Fisher, 1992
learn_more See the title page of this book.
learn_more See a page from this book.
learn_more See one of the puppets in the book.

In Anansi Company Ronald King created 13 silk-screened pages featuring large removable puppets. In a format similar to a pop-up book, it enlists viewers' participation. Working with King, Roy Fisher derived the text, written in verse in Jamaican English, from material collected by Walter Jekyll for his book Jamaican Song and Story (English Folklore Society, 1907).

The bright colors and anthropomorphic animals suggest a lighthearted story, but King uses them here to create a sophisticated underworld with messages about contemporary consumerism, political issues, and deceit.

This exhibition is located at the Getty Center, Research Institute Exhibition Gallery.