"Artists & Others: The Imaginative French Book in the 21st Century" at the Grolier Club

The Grolier Club is pleased to be the sole US venue for a presentation of French artists’ books from the remarkable Koopman Collection at the National Library of the Netherlands. The exhibition “Artists & Others: The Imaginative French Book in the 21st Century” is on view from June 1-July 30, 2016. Focusing on work designed and produced in the past 15 years, approximately 70 visually expressive books have been organized in six themes by curators Paul van Capelleveen and Sophie Ham. 

The exhibition emphasizes various aspects of modern typography and art that can be seen in books created by contemporary book artists, underscoring the extent to which the modern world is represented in their books. 

The collection was formed by Dr. Louis Koopman at the beginning of the 20th century as a tribute to his deceased lover, Anny Antoine. After Koopman’s death in 1968, the library built on his lifelong fascination with French literature and contemporary French artists’ books by amassing a collection that now numbers 10,000 volumes. The Koopman Collection is part of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, the National Library of the Netherlands.

Modern Art and Books

Several sections of the exhibition focus on Globalism. Publishers such as Collectif Génération have invited artists to illustrate texts, reflecting new book forms and new attitudes towards graphic design through international collaboration. Three exhibition cases display French books that are conversant with Politics and Society including issues of privacy as well as waste and pollution, and women’s concerns and the body.  

Stylistically, the exhibition reveals how combining of genres has become commonplace: conventions taken from conceptual art appear alongside methods drawn from the world of the private press, but the traditions of the French “livre d’artiste” and of graphic design are also incorporated. 

On view are a protest publication in the form of a limited edition, a book of stories that mimics an accounts book, anarchistic works from a publishing collective La zone opaque that resemble private press publications, and cartoons presented as etchings. Included are works by artists, printers, authors and publishers from the United States, Germany, Italy, Australia, Argentina, Canada, Chile, Egypt, Russia, The Netherlands, Belgium, and Morocco.

The show forms a visual spectacle of art and typography. “One doesn’t have to read French to enjoy it!” comments curator Paul van Capelleveen.

Towards a New Tradition in Book Design

The show mirrors the interests and concerns of 21st century artists as well as book publishers. The books demonstrate unusual combinations of technique, subject, and genre. Technically, a fluidity of book traditions has become noticeable in recent artists’ books. This includes digitally set texts, scans, elements of chance, typographical juxtapositions, and  randomness in word and image perceived in a random order; these, coupled with a resurgent interest in analogue techniques, open up a vast array of possibilities. Interest is simultaneously being shown in analogue and digital techniques.  

One example that illustrates the concepts of technique, style, and genre is Didier Mutel’s three volumes of information and misinformation. He combines the texts of Stéphane Mallarmé, Un Coup de Dés Jamais N'Abolira le Hasard, with God Bless America, and speeches by George W. Bush and Tony Blair.  It is an artist’s book with etchings on deluxe paper; a private press book designed by one individual; and a political pamphlet with a commentary on the Iraq war. The poem by Mallarmé is represented by soundwaves, executed in etching. The soundwaves of the political speeches do not express the words of the politicians. Their place has been taken by Mallarmé’s text. Art conquers politics.

Videos show how some of these books have been designed and printed. “Ultimately nothing can really be predicted beforehand,” notes Mr. van Capelleveen.

Publication:

Copies of the book that accompanies the exhibition are available at the Grolier Club, price $30. 

Related Events:

Wednesday, June 1, 2016, 6:00 PM - 7:30 PM: Curator Talk: Paul Capelleveen will speak on the themes of the exhibition. Reception follows. 

Thursday, June 2, 2016, 6:00 PM - 7:30 PM: Artists' Book Round Table. “Books Crossing Borders 1: The Changing Identity of the Artist’s Book.” The first of two round table discussions on the themes of the exhibition.  Chair: Ruth Rogers (curator, Wellesley College). Speakers: Didier Mutel (artist, Paris), Pierre Walunsinski (typographer, book dealer, Paris), Shirley Sharoff (artist, Paris), Matthew Tyson (artist, printer, Crest). Reception follows.

Tuesday June 7 and Tuesday June 14, 2016, 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM: Lunchtime Exhibition Tours. Curator Paul van Capelleveen will lead a tour of the exhibition. Free and open to the public. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016 6:00 PM - 7:30 PM: Artists' Book Round Table. “Books Crossing Borders 2: The Migration of French Artists’ Books to the USA.” The second of two round table discussions on the themes of the exhibition. Chair: Jane Siegel (librarian, Columbia University). Speakers: Hélène Campaignole (Sorbonne University, Paris), Robbin Ami Silverberg (artist,New York), Timothy Young (curator, Yale University), Didier Mutel (artist, Paris) Reception follows.

VISITING THE GROLIER CLUB

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New York, NY 10022

212-838-6690

www.grolierclub.org

Hours: Monday - Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm

Admission: Exhibitions are open to the public free of charge

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