Even young children recognize a book: it’s rectangular and opens on one side to reveal multiple pages. But does it have to be so? Can books escape the tyranny of our past assumptions to assume an altogether different shape? What preconceptions do we hold about what books are made of and how they are read? These are some of the questions visitors might ponder – yielding surprising answers – as they view selections from the eclectic book arts collection featured in the new LSU Libraries Special Collections exhibition, “Exploding the Codex: Book Arts in Special Collections.” The exhibition will be on display August 19 – December 13, 2019 in Hill Memorial Library at LSU, and is free and open to the public.
Works by artists Alisa Banks, Julie Chen, Amos Kennedy, Ron King, Claire van Vliet, and a host of others are featured, representing a variety of printing techniques, structures, and binding types. Presented in a kaleidoscope of color and shape, bookworks explore subjects from playful celebrations of nature to political calls to action.
The exhibition is presented in association with the LSU School of Art, sponsor of a talk by artist Julie Chen. “Founder of Flying Fish Press, Julie Chen is one of the most celebrated and innovative book artists working today. She is featured in the PBS documentary ‘Craft in America.’ Her works are sculptural gems, skillfully bringing together all facets of the book including paper, typography, printmaking, and elegant design. An amazing storyteller, her interests and inspiration are driven by family, culture, and personal narrative,” notes Professor Leslie Koptcho, LSU School of Art. Chen will present a lecture at LSU this October.
Collected in the exhibition are a number of books whose book-shape is variously familiar and exotic, skirting the limits of what we might traditionally consider a book, even as they draw inspiration from that history. Books’ form shapes the physical and mental process of reading; many works on display challenge and reshape the relationship between the reader and the book, placing the tactile and the visual at the forefront of the reading experience. And while many shapes and materials may surprise– it is important to note that many modern works draw from materials and structures of ancient bookworks that depart from the codex form with which we are so familiar.
“The radical and often provocative nature of the book art on display in this exhibit is a natural outgrowth of our larger rare book collection, in which we seek to preserve both the multiplicity of material forms as well as the intellectual potential of books, from the humble pulp paperback to the lavishly illuminated medieval manuscript. The books on exhibit are drawn from throughout our collections, touching on many different subjects, but united by their self-conscious investigation of the artistic potential of the book form. Bibliophiles of all types will find pieces to inspire, delight, and surprise them,” said Dr. John David Miles, Curator of Books.
The exhibition is free and open to the public. Visit http://www.lib.lsu.edu/special for more information.
Images: Ode to a Grand Staircase by Julie Chen; Poule Aye by Alisa Banks.