Collecting at the Center for Book Arts

Shervone Neckles' accordion book, A Soldiers Story (2007). Collection of the Center for Book Arts. Used by permission.

Through September 10, The Center for Book Arts in New York City has an exhibition titled Multiple, Limited, Unique: Selections from the Permanent Collection of the Center for Book Arts. It showcases the work of book artists, who, over the past forty years, have exhibited, trained, or worked at CBA.  

The exhibition, which opened earlier this month, is the culmination of a three-year Collections Initiative headed by executive director Alexander Campos. The goal of the Collections Initiative was to organize, rehouse, catalogue, and digitize what has accumulated over the past four decades -- e.g., art, books, exhibition catalogues. Campos, collections specialist Jen Larson, and several artists will have a public discussion in concert with the exhibition this Wednesday, July 20.

"We've been collecting unofficially," Campos told me last week, and the result was "piles and random boxes without any order or rhyme or reason." The boxes were often referred to as the center's "archives," but much of what was there was art donated by past students, teachers, supporters, or exhibitors. "In order to safeguard and care for them," Campos decided, "we really needed to call it a collection and change our mentality."

From John Ross and Tim Ross, a boxed set of oversize relief prints, Visible Cities (1993). Collection of the Center for Book Arts. Used by permission.

So the CBA solicited funds from government agencies and private foundations to complete a three-year plan to document and digitize the collection, which was catalogued into three separate sections: fine arts collection, containing "objects -- from fine press to offset;" a reference collection, containing a library of how-to books on paper, typography, printing, and binding technique; and the institutional archives, containing exhibition catalogues and institutional ephemera.

The resulting exhibition--which will travel to Savannah College of Arts and Design (Fall 2011), Minnesota Center for Book Arts (Winter 2012), Museum of Printing History (Spring/Summer 2012), Lafayette College (Fall 2012), and the Book Club of California (Winter 2013)--and the web portal: are the products of this impressive initiative. As Campos told me, the project was about making these items accessible and following through with the Center's goal as a teaching agency.

Click through to the fuller listing here.