Tuesday, 10 am-9 pm; Wednesday-Saturday, 10 am-5 pm
Opening reception: Saturday, August 28, 6-9 pm; Curators’ Gallery Talk, 8 pm
“I’ve always said that artists’ books refuse to behave like books,” says Walker librarian Rosemary Furtak. “Pages, text, binding, title-page information are all likely to be thrown out the window as the artist attempts to convey his or her message.” Caretaker of the 40,000-tome John Rogers Shuman Memorial Library at the Walker for 20 years (the largest regional collection of contemporary practice), Furtak is co-curator of an exhibition of several hundred artists’ books drawn from the library’s holdings. These works, on view to the public for the first time outside the museum, will be displayed around various themes: smoking, travel, food, mail art, local artists, women artists, the evolution of the artist’s book, conceptual art, photography, and books in a box. The show also incorporates an in-depth look at the prolific output in this genre by Edward Ruscha, Sol LeWitt, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Dieter Roth, Richard Tuttle, General Idea, Lawrence Weiner, Jim Dine, Buster Cleveland, Andy Warhol, Ray Johnson, Yoko Ono, and various Fluxus artists.
A printmaker, art historian, and former teacher, Furtak responds to these books on a very personal level, as an artist first and a librarian second. She’s lovingly accumulated them for years, and her acquisition style has always been front and center: “If artists are making books, it seems that we should be collecting them, especially if the artist is represented in the Walker’s permanent holdings.” Also folded into the library’s 1,500-volume group of these books are works by practitioners for whom this is a primary art-making activity, such as Carol Barton, Julie Chen, and Keith Smith, and three that were commissioned by the Walker: Siah Armajani’s Bridge Book; Laurie Simmons’ Water Ballet/Family Collision, and Sol LeWitt’s Lines in Two Directions and in Five Colors on Five Colors with All Their Combinations. “Our collection is somewhat quirky in that it includes multiples, artist-designed exhibition catalogues, and serial publications that feature artists’ contributions,” Furtak says. “For example, Joseph Beuys’ first multiple, the melting chocolate bar, was made for the German publication DE-COLLAGE. That journal will be included in the exhibition with others such as ASPEN, BLAST, FILE, ART RITE, and S.M.S.” Furtak’s co-curator at the MCBA is Jeff Rathermel, book-arts teacher at the University of Minnesota and Carleton College.